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Sixty Years Ago 


5th Reprint 

34000 Copie* Total 




Postpaid 30c 

attle, Washington 


— I 

Early Days in Indiana. 

In the early '50s, out four and a half and seven 
miles, respectively, from Indianapolis, Indiana, there 
lived two young people with their parents, who 
were old-time farmers of the old style, keeping no 
"hired man" nor buying many "store goods." The 
girl could spin and weave, make delicious butter, 
knit soft, good shapen socks, and cook as good a 
meal as any other country girl around about, and 
was, withal, as buxom a lass as had ever been "born 
and raised there (Indiana) all her life." 

These were times when sugar sold for eighteen 
cents per pound, calico fifteen cents per yard, salt 
three dollars a barrel, and all othei goods at cor- 
respondingly high prices; while butter would bring 
but ten cents a pound, eggs five cents a dozen, and 
wheat but two bits (twenty-five cents) a bushel. And 
so, when these farmers went to the market town 
(Indianapolis) care was taken to carry along some- 
thing to sell, either eggs, or butter, or perhaps a 
half dozen pairs of socks, or maybe a few yards of 
home-made cloth, as well as some grain, or hay, or 
a bit of pork, or possibly a load of wood, to make 
ends meet at the store. 

The young man was a little uncouth in appear- 
ance, round-faced, rather stout in build — almost fat — 
a little boisterous, always restless, and without a 
very good address, yet with at least one redeeming 
trait of character — he loved his work and was known 
to be as industrious a lad as any in the neighbor- 

These young people would sometime^ meet at the 
"Brimstone meeting-house," a Methodist church 
known (far and wide) by that name; so named by 
the unregenerate because of the open preaching ot 
endless torment to follow non-church members and 
sinners after death— a literal lake of fire— taught with 
vehemence and accompanied by boisterous scenes of 
shouting by those who were "saved." Amid these 
scenes and these surroundings these two young peo- 
ple grew up to the age of manhood and womanhood. 

9w s o ;^ 

knowing bnt little of the world outside of their 
home sphere — and who knows but as happy as if 
they had seen the whole world? Had they not ex- 
perienced the joys of the sugar camp while "stirring 
otT" the lively creeping maple sugar? Both had been 
thumped upon the bare head by the falling hickory 
nuts m windy weather; had hunted the black walnuts 
halt hidden in the leaves; had scraped the ground 
for the elusive beech nuts; had even ventured to 
apple parings together, though not yet out of their 

The lad hunted the 'possum and the coon in the 
White River bottom, now the suburb of the city of 
Indianapolis, and had cut even the stately walnut 
trees, now so valuable, that the cunning coon might 
be driven from his hiding place. 

"I'm Going to Be a Farmer. 

■"I'm going to be a farmer when I get married/' 
the young man quite abruptly said one day to the 
lass, without any previous conversation to lead up 
to such an assertion, to the confusion of his com- 
panion, who could not mistake the thoughts that 
prompted the words. A few months later the lass 
said, "Yes, I want to be a farmer, too, but I want 
to be a farmer on our own land," and two bargains 
were confirmed then and there when the lad said, 
"W'c will go West and not live on pap's farm." "Nor 
in the old cabin, nor any cabin unless it's our own." 
came the response, and so the resolution was made 
that they would go to Iowa, get some land and 
"grow up with the country." 

Off For Iowa. 

About the first week of October, 1851, a covered 
wagon drew up in front of Thomas Sumner's habi- 
tation, then but four miles out from Indianapolis on 
the National road, ready to be loaded for the start. 
Eliza Jane, the second daughter of that noble man, 
the "lass" described, then the wife of the young man 
mentioned, the author, was ready, with cake and ap- 

— 2 — 

pie butter and pumpkin pies, jellies and the like, 
enough to last the whole trip, and plenty of sub- 
stantiate besides. Not much of a load to be sure, 
but it was all we had; plenty of blankets, a good 
sized Dutch oven, and each an extra pair of shoes, 
cloth for two new dresses for the wife, and for an 
extra pair of trousers for the husband. 

Tears could be restrained no longer as the loading 
progressed and the stern realization faced the par- 
ents of both that the young couple were about to 
leave them. 

"Why, mother, we are only going out to Iowa, 
you know, where we can get a home that shall be 
our own; it's not so very far — only about 500 miles." 

"Yes, I know, but suppose you get sick in that 
uninhabited country — who will care for you?" 

Notwithstanding this motherly solicitude, the 
young people could not fail to know that there was 
a secret feeling of approval in the good woman's 
breast, and when, after a few miles travel, the re- 
luctant final parting came, could not then know 
that this loved parent would lay down her life a 
few years later in an heroic attempt to follow the 
wanderers to Oregon, and that her bones would rest 
in an unknown and unmarked grave of the Platte 

Of that October drive from the home near In- 
dianapolis to Eddyville, Iowa, in the delicious (shall 
I say delicious, for what other word expresses it?) 
atmosphere of an Indian summer, and in the atmo- 
sphere of hope and content; hope born of aspira- 
tions — content with our lot, born of a confidence of 
the future, what shall I say? What matter if we had 
but a few dollars in money and but few belongings? 
— we had the wide world before us; we had good 
health; and before and above all we had each other, 
and were supremely happy and rich in our antici- 

When we left Indianapolis — and cut loose from 
that embryo city we left railroads behind us. except 
such as were found in the wagon track where the 

— 3 — 

rails were laid crossways to keep the wagon out of 
the mud. What matter if the road was rough? We 
could go a little slower, and then wouldn't we have 
a better appetite for our supper because of the jolt- 
ing, and wouldn't we sleep a little sounder for it? 
And so everything in all the world looked bright, 
and what little mishaps did befall us were looked 
upon with light hearts, because we realized that they 
might have been worse. 

The great Mississippi river was crossed at Bur- 
lington, or rather, we embarked several miles down 
the river, and were carried up to the landing at 
Burlington, and after a few days' further driving 
landed in Eddyville, Iowa, destined to be only a 
place to winter, and a way station on our route to 

An Iowa Winter. 

My first introduction to an Iowa winter was in a 
surveyor's camp on the western borders of the state, 
a little north of Kanesville (now Council Bluffs), as 
cook of the party, which position was speedily 
changed and that of flagman assigned to me. 

If there are any settlers now left of the Iowa of 
that day (sixty years ago) they will remem- 
ber the winter was bitter cold — the "coldest within 
the memory of the oldest inhabitant." On my trip 
hack from the surveying party above mentioned to 
Eddyville, just before Christmas, I encountered one 
of those cold days long to be remembered. A com- 
panion named Vance rested with me over night in 
a cabin, with scant food for ourselves or the mare 
we led. It was thirty-five miles to the next cabin, 
we must reach that place or lay out on the snow. 
So a very early start was made — before daybreak, 
while the wind lay. The good lady of the cabin 
baked some biscuit for a noon lunch, but they were 
frozen solid in our pockets before we had been out 
two hours The wind rose with the sun, and with 
the sun two bright sun-dogs, one on each side, and 
alongside of each, but slightly less bright, another— 
a beautiful sight to behold, but arising from condi- 

— 4 — 

tions intolerable to bear. Vance came near freezing 
to death, and would had I not succeeded in arousing 
him to anger and gotten him off the mare. 

I vowed then and there that I did not like the 
Iowa climate, and the Oregon fever was visibly 
quickened Besides, if I went to Oregon the gov- 
ernment would give us 320 acres of land, while in 
Iowa we should have to purchase it — at a low price 
to be sure, but it must be bought and paid for on 
the spot. There were no preemption or beneficent 
homestead laws in force then, and not until many 
years later. The country was a wide, open, rolling 
prairie — a beautiful country indeed — but what about 
a market? No railroads, no wagon roads, no cities, 
no meeting-houses, no schools — the prospect looked 
drear. How easy it is for one when his mind is once 
bent against a country to conjure up all sorts of 
reasons to bolster his, perhaps hasty, conclusions; 
and so Iowa was condemned as unsuited to our 
life abiding place. 

But what about going to Oregon when springtime 
came? An interesting event was pending that ren- 
dered a positive decision impossible for the moment, 
and not until the first week of April, 1852, when 
our first-born baby boy was a month old, could we 
say that we were going to Oregon in 1852. 

Off for Oregon. 

I have been asked hundreds of times how many 
wagons were in the train I trave-led with, and what 
train it was, and who was the captain? — assuming 
that, of course, we must have been with some train. 

I have invariably answered, one train, one wagon, 
and that we had no captain. What I meant by one 
train is, that I looked upon the whole emigration, 
strung out on the plains five hundred miles, as one 
train. For long distances the throng was so great 
that the road was literally filled with wagons as far 
as the eye could reach. At Kanesville where the last 
purchases were made, or the last letter sent to anx- 
ious friends, the congestion became so great that 

— 5 — 






v 4Q 





the teams were literally blocked, and stood in line 
for hours before they could get out of the jam. Then, 
as to a captain, we didn't think we needed one, and 
so when we drove out of Eddyville, there was but 
one wagon in our train, two yoke of four-year-old 
steers, one yoke of cows, and one extra cow. This 
cow was the only animal we lost on the whole trip — 
strayed in the Missouri River bottom before crossing. 

And now as to the personnel of our little party. 
William Buck, who became my partner for the trip, 
was a man six years my senior, had had some experi- 
ence on the Plains, and knew about the outfit needed, 
but had no knowledge in regard to a team of cattle. 
He was an impulsive man, and to some extent excit- 
able; yet withal a man of excellent judgment and as 
honest as God Almighty makes men. No lazy bones 
occupied a place in Buck's body. He was so scrupul- 
ously neat and cleanly that some might say he was 
fastidious, but such was not the case. His aptitude 
for the camp work, and unfitness for handling. the 
team, at once, as we might say by natural selection, 
divided the cares of the household, sending the mar- 
ried man to the range with the team and the bachelor 
to the camp. The little wife was in ideal health, 
and almost as particular as Buck (not quite though), 
while the young husband would be a little more on 
the slouchy order, if the reader will pardon the use 
of that word, more expressive than elegant. 

Buck selected the outfit to go into the wagon, 
while I fitted up the wagon and bought the team. 

We had butter, packed in the center of the flour 
in double sacks; eggs packed in corn meal or flour, 
to last us nearly five hundred miles; fruit in abund- 
ance, and dried pumpkins; a little jerked beef, not 
too salt, and last, though not least, a demijohn of 
brandy for "medicinal purposes only," as Buck said, 
with a merry twinkle of the eye that exposed the 
subterfuge which he knew I understood without any 
sign. The little wife had prepared the home-made 
yeast cake which she know so well how to make and 
dry, and we had light bread all the way, baked in 

— 7 — 

a tin reflector instead of the heavy Dutch ovens so 
much in use on the Plains. 

Albeit the butter to a considerable extent melted 
and mingled with the flour, yet we were not much 
disconcerted, as the "short-cake" that followed made 
us almost glad the mishap 'had occurred. Besides, 
did we not have plenty of fresh butter, from the milk 
of our own cows, churned every day in the can, by 
the jostle of the wagon? Then the buttermilk! 
What a luxury 1 Yes, that's the word — a real lux- 
ury. 1 will never, so long as I live, forget that 
short-cake and corn-bread, the puddings and pump- 
kin pies, and above all the buttermilk. The reader 
who smiles at this may well recall that it is the 
small things that make up the happiness of life. 

But it was more than that. As we gradually crept 
out on the Plains and saw the sickness and suffering 
caused by improper food and in some cases from im- 
proper preparation, it gradually dawned on me how 
blessed I was, with such a partner as Buck and such 
a life partner as the little wife. Some trains, it 
soon transpired, were without fruit, and most of them 
depended upon saleratus for raising their bread. 
Many had only fat bacon for meat until the buffalo 
supplied a change; and no doubt much of the sick- 
ness attributed to the cholera was caused by an ill- 
suited diet. 

1 am willing to claim credit for the team, every 
hoof of which reached the Coast in safety. Four 
(four-year-old) steers and two cows were sufficient 
for our light wagon and light outfit, not a pound of 
which but was useful (except the brandy) and neces- 
sary for our comfort. Not one of these steers had 
ever been under the yoke, though plenty of "broke" 
oxen could be had, but generally of that class that 
had been broken in spirit as well as in training, so 
when we got across the Des Moines River with the 
cattle strung out to the wagon and Buck on the off 
side to watch, while I, figuratively speaking, took the 
reins in hand, we may have presented a ludicrous 

— 8 — 

sight, but did not have time to think whether we 
did or not, and cared but little so the team would go. 

First Day Out. 

The first day's drive out from Eddyville was a 
short one, and so far as I now remember the only 
one on the entire trip where the cattle were allowed 
to stand in the yoke at noon while the owners 
lunched and rested. I made it a rule, no matter how 
short the noontime, to unyoke and let the cattle 
rest or eat while we rested and ate, and on the last 
(1906) trip rigidly adhered to that rule. 

An amusing scene was enacted when, at near 
nightfall, the first camp was made. Buck excitedly 
insisted we must not unyoke the cattle. "Well, 
what shall we do?" I asked; "they can't live in the 
yoke always; we will have to unyoke them some- 

"Yes, but if you unyoke here you will never catch 
them again," came the response. One word brought 
on another, until the "war of words had almost 
reached the stage of a dispute, when a stranger, 
Thomas McAuley, who was camped near by, with a 
twinkle in his eye I often afterwards saw and will 
always remember, interfered and said his cattle were 
gentle and there were three men of his party and 
that they would help us yoke up in the morning. I 
gratefully accepted his proffered help, speedily un- 
yoked, and ever after that never a word with the 
merest semblance of contention passed between Buck 
and myself. 

Scanning McAuley's outfit the next morning I 
was quite troubled to start out with him, his teams 
being light, principally cows, and thin in flesh, with 
wagons apparently light and as frail as the teams. 
But I soon found that his outfit, like ours, carried 
no extra weight; that he knew how to care for a 
team; and was, withal, an obliging neighbor, as wa9 
fully demonstrated on many trying occasions, as we 
traveled in company for more than a thousand 

— 9 — 

miles, mini Ins road to California parted from ours 
At the big bend of the Bear River. 

Of the trip through Iowa little remains to be said 
further than that the grass was thin and washy, the 
roads muddy and slippery, and weather execrable, 
although May had been ushered in long before we 
reached the little Mormon town of Kanesville (now 
Council Bluffs), a few miles above where we crossed 
tlu> Missouri River. 

Crossing the Missouri. 

•What on earth is that?" exclaimed Margaret Mc- 
\ulcy, as we approached the ferry landing a few 
miles below where Omaha now stands. 

"It looks for all the world like a great big white 
flatiron," answered Eliza, the sister, "doesn't it, Mrs. 
Meeker " but, leaving the women folks to their 
similes, we drivers turned our attention more to the 
teams as we encountered the roads "cut all to 
pieces" on account of the concentrated travel as we 
neared the landing and the solid phalanx of wagons 
that formed the flatiron of white ground. 

We here encountered a sight indeed long to be 
emembered. The "flatiron of white" that Eliza had 
cen proved to be wagons with their tongues point- 
ing to the landing — a center train with other parallel 
t.iins extending back in the rear and gradually cov- 
ering a wider range the further back from the river 
one would go. Several hundred wagons were thus 
closely interlocked, completely blocking the approach 
to the landing by new arrivals, whether in companies 
or single. All around about were camps of all kinds, 
from those without covering of any kind to others 
with comfortable tent?, nearly all seemingly intent 
on merrymaking, while here and there were small 
groups engaged in devotional services. We soon 
ascertained these camps contained the outfits, in 
great part, of the wagons in line in the great white 
flatiron, some of whom had been there for two 
weeks with no apparent probability of securing an 
early crossing. At the turbulent river front the 

— 10 — 

muddy waters of the Missouri had already swallowed 
up three victims, one of whom 1 saw go under the 
drift of a small island as 1 stood near his shrieking 
wife the first day we were there. Two scows were 
engaged in crossing the wagons and teams. In this 
case the stock had rushed to one side of the boat, 
submerging the gunwale, and precipitated the whole 
contents into the dangerous river. One yoke of oxen, 
having reached the farther shore, deliberately en- 
tered the river with a heavy yoke on and swam 
to the Iowa side, and were finally saved by the 
helping hands of the assembled emigrants. 

"What should we do?" was passed around, with- 
out answer. Tom McAuley was not yet looked upon 
as a leader, as was the case later. The sister Mar- 
garet, a most determined maiden lady, the oldest of 
the party and as resolute and brave as the bravest, 
said to build a boat. But of what should we built 
it? While this question was under consideration and 
a search for material made, one of our party, who 
had gotten across the river in search of timber, dis- 
covered a scow, almost completely buried, on the 
sandpit opposite the landing, "only just a small bit 
of the railing and a corner of the boat visible." 
The report seemed too good to be true. The next 
thing to do was to find the owner, which in a search 
of a day we did, eleven miles down the river. "Yes, 
if you will stipulate to deliver the boat safely to me 
after crossing your five wagons and teams, you can 
have it," said the owner, and a bargain was closed 
right then and there. My! but didn't we make the 
sand fly that night from that boat? By morning we 
could begin to see the end. Then busy hands began 
to cut a landing on the perpendicular sandy bank on 
the Iowa side; others were preparing sweeps, and 
all was bustle and stir and one might say excite- 

By this time it had become noised around that an- 
other boat would be put on to ferry people over, 
and we were besieged with applications from de- 
tained emigrants. Finally, the word coming to the 

— 11 — 

ears of the ferryman, they were foolish enough to 
undertake to prevent us from crossing ourselves. A 
writ of replevin or some other process was issued, 
I never knew exactly what, directing the sheriff to 
take possession of the boat when landed, and which 
he attempted to do. I never before nor since at- 
tempted to resist an officer of the law, nor joined to 
accomplish anything by force outside the pale of 
the law, but when that sheriff put in an appearance, 
and we realized what it meant, there wasn't a man 
in our party that did not run for his gun to the 
nearby camp, and it is needless to add that we did 
not need to use them. As if by magic a hundred 
guns were in sight. The sheriff withdrew, and the 
crossing went peaceably on till all our wagons were 
safely landed. But we had another danger to face, 
we learned that there would be an attempt made 
to take the boat from us, not as against us, but as 
against the owner, and but for the adroit manage- 
ment of McAuley and my brother Oliver (who had 
joined us) we would have been unable to fulfil our 
engagements with the owner. 

Out on the Plains. 

When we stepped foot upon the right bank of the 
Missouri River we were outside the pale of civil 
law. We were within the Indian country where no 
organized civil government existed. Some people 
and some writers have assumed that each man was 
"a law unto himself" and free to do his own will, 
dependent, of course, upon his physical ability to 
enforce it. 

Nothing could be further from the facts than this 
assumption, as evil-doers soon found out to their 
discomfit. No general organization for law and 
order was effected, but the American instinct for 
fair play and for a hearing prevailed; so that while 
there was not mob law, the law of self-preservation 
asserted itself, and the mandates of the level-headed 
old men prevailed; "a high court from which there 

— 12 — 


was no appeal," but ,f a high court in the most ex* 

.iltcd sense; a senate composed of the ablest and 
inOit respected fathers of the emigration, exercising 
both legislative and judicial power; and its laws and 
decisions proved equal to any worthy of the high 
trust reposed in it," so tersely described by Apple- 
gate as to conditions when the first great train 
moved out on the Plains in 1843, that 1 quote his 
words as describing conditions in 1852. There was 
this difference, however, in the emigration of 1843 — 
.ill, by agreement, belonged to one or the other of 
the two companies, the "cow column" or the "light 
brigade," while with the emigrants of 1852 it is safe 
to say that more than half did not belong to large 
companies, or one might say any organized company. 
But this made no difference, for when an occasion 
called for action a "high court" was convened, and 
woe-betide the man that would undertake to defy 
its mandates after its deliberations were made public. 
One incident, well up on the Sweetwater, will il- 
lustrate the spirit of determination of the sturdy 
old men (.elderly, 1 should say, as no young men 
were allowed to sit in these councils) of the Plains, 
while laboring under stress of grave personal cares 
and with many personal bereavements. A murder 
had been committed, and it was clear that the mo- 
tive was robbery. The suspect had a large fam- 
ily, and was traveling along with the moving col- 
umn. Men had volunteered to search for the miss- 
ing man and finally found the proof pointing to the 
guilt of the suspect. A council of twelve men was 
called and deliberated until the second day, mean- 
while holding the murderer safely within their grip. 
What were they to do? Here was a wife and four 
little children depending upon this man for their 
lives; what would become of his family if justice 
was meted out to him? Soon there came an under- 
current of what might be termed public opinion — 
that it was probably better to forego punishment 
than to endanger the lives of the family; but the 
council would not be swerved from its resolution, 

— 14 — 

and at sundown of the third day the criminal was 
hung in the presence of the whole camp, including 
the family, but not until ample provisions had been 
made to insure the safety of the family by provid- 
ing a driver to finish the journey. I came so near 
seeing this that I did see the ends of the wagon 
tongues in the air and the rope dangling therefrom, 
but I have forgotten the names of the parties, and 
even if I had not, would be loath to make them 

From necessity, murder was punishable with 
death; but stealing, by a tacit understanding, with 
whipping, which, when inflicted by one of those 
long ox lashes in the hands of an expert, would 
bring the blood from the victim's back at every 
stroke. Minor offenses, or differences generally, 
took the form of arbitration, the decision of which 
each party would abide by, as if emanating from a 
court of law. 

Lawlessness was not common on the Plains, no 
more so than in the communities from which the 
great body of the emigrants had been drawn; in fact, 
not so much so, as punishment was swift and cer- 
tain, and that fact had its deterrent effect. But the 
great body of the emigrants were a law-abiding 
people from law-abiding communities. 

And now as to our mode of travel. I did not enter 
an organized company, neither could I travel alone. 
Four wagons, with nine men, by tacit agreement, 
traveled together for a thousand miles, and sepa- 
rated only when our roads parted, the one to Cali- 
fornia, the other to Oregon. And yet we were all 
the while in one great train, never out of sight or 
hearing of others. Tn fact, at times, the road would 
be so full of wagons that all could not travel in one, 
track, and this fact accounts for the double road- 
beds seen in so many places on the trail. One of the 
party always went ahead to look out for water, 
grass and fuel, three requisites for a camping place. 
The grass along the beaten track was always eaten 
off close by the loose stock, of which there were 

— 15 — 

great numbers, and so we had frequently to take the 
cattle long distances from camp. Then came the 
most trying part of the whole trip — the all-night 
watch, which resulted in our making the cattle our 
bed-fellows, back to back for warmth; for signal 
as well, to get up if the ox did. It was not long-, 
though, till wc were used to it, and slept quite a 
bit except when a storm struck us; well, then, to 
say the least, it was not a pleasure outing. But 
weren't we glad when the morning came, with, per- 
chance, the smoke of the campfire in sight, and may- 
be, as we approached, we could catch the aroma 
of the coffee: and then such tender greetings and 
Mich thoughtful care that would have touched a 
heart of stone, and to us seemed like a paradise. 
Wc were supremely happy. 

People, too, often brought their own ills upon 
themselves by their indiscreet action, especially in 
the loss of their teams. The trip had not pro- 
gressed far until there came a universal outcry 
against the heavy loads and unnecessary articles, 
and soon we began to see abandoned property. First 
it might be a table or a cupboard, or perhaps a 
bedstead or a heavy cast-iron cookstove. Then 
becran to be seen beddinsr by the wayside, feather 
beds, blankets, quilts, pillows — everything of the 
kind that mortal man might want. And so, very 
soon here and there an abandoned wagon could 
be seen, provisions, stacks of flour and bacon being 
the most abundant — all left as common property. 
Help vourself if you will; no one will interfere; 
and. in fact, in some places a sign was posted in- 
viting all to take what they wanted. Hundreds of 
wagons were left and hundreds of tons of goods. 
People seemed to vie with each other to give 
away their property, there being no chance to sell, 
and they disliked to destroy. Long after the mania 
for retting rid of goods and lightening the load, 
the abandonment of wagons continued, as the teams 
became weaker and the ravages of cholera struck 
It was then that many lost their heads and 

— 16 — 

ruined their teams by furious driving, by lack of 
care, and by abuse. There came a veritable stam- 
pede — a strife for possession of the road, to sec 
who should get ahead. Whole trains (often with 
bad blood) would strive for the mastery of the 
road, one attempting to pass the other, frequently 
with drivers on each side the team to urge the 
poor, suffering dumb brutes forward. 

"What shall we do?" passed from one to another 
in our little family council. 

"Now, fellers," said McAuley, "don't lose yom 
heads, but do just as you have been doing; you 
gals, just make your bread as light as ever, and 
we'll boil the water and take river water the same 
as ever, even if it is almost as thick as mud." 

We had all along refused to "dig little wells 
near the banks of the Platte," as many others did. 
having soon learned that the water obtained was 
strongly charged with alkali, while the river water 
was comparatively pure, other than the fine impal- 
pable sediment, so fine as to seemingly be held in 

"Keep cool," he continued; "maybe we'll have to 
lay down, and maybe not. Anyway, it's no use 
frettin'. What's to be will be, 'specially if we but 
help things along." 

This homely yet wise counsel fell upon willing 
ears, as most all were already of the same mind; 
and we did "just as we had been doing," and es- 
caped unharmed. 

I look back on that party of nine men and three 
women (and a baby), with four wagons, with feel- 
ings almost akin to reverence. 

Thomas McAuley became by natural selection the 
leader of the party, although no agreement of the 
kind was ever made. He was, next to his maiden 
sister, the oldest of the party, a most fearless man, 
who never lost his head, whatever the emergency, 
and I have been in some pretty tight places with 
him. While he was the oldest, I was the youngest^ 
of the men folks of the party, and the only married 

— 17 — 

man of the lot, and if I do have to say it, the 
strongest and ablest to bear the brunt of the work 
(pardon me, reader, when I add, and willing accord- 
ing to my strength, for it is true), and so we got 
along well together until the parting of the way 
came. This spirit, though, pervaded the whole camp 
both with the men and women folks to the end. 
Thomas McAtiley still lives, at Hobart Hills, Cali- 
fornia, or did a few years ago when I last heard from 
him, a respected citizen. He has long since passed 
the eighty-year mark, and has not "laid down" yet. 

Did space but permit I would like to tell more in 
detail of the members of that little happy party 
(family we called ourselves) camped near the bank 
of the Platte when the fury of that great epidemic 
—cholera — burst upon us, but I can only make brief 
mention. William Buck — one of Nature's noblemen 
— has long ago "laid down." Always scrupulously 
neat and cleanly, always ready to cater to the wants 
of his companions and as honest as the day is 
long, he has ever held a tender place in my heart. 
It was Buck that selected our nice little outfit, com- 
plete in every part, so that we did not throw away 
a pound of provisions nor need to purchase any. The 
water can was in the wagon, of sufficient capacity 
|o supply our wants for a day, and a "sup" for the 
oxen and cows besides. The milk can in the wagon 
always yielded its lump of butter at night, churned 
hy the movement of the wagon from the surplus 
morning's milk. The yeast cake so thoughtfully pro- 
vided by the little wife ever brought forth sweet, 
light bread baked in that tin reflector before the 
"chip" (buffalo) fire. That reflector and those yeast 
rakes were a great factor conducive to our health. 
Small thincs, to be sure, but great as to results. 
Instead of saleratus biscuit, bacon and beans, .we 
had the light bread and fruit, with fresh meats and 
rice pudding, far out on the Plains, until our supply 
of eggs became exhausted. 

Of the remainder of the party, brother Oliver "laid 
down" fifty years ago, but his memory is still green 

— 18 — 

in the hearts of all who knew him. Margaret Mc- 
Auley died a few years after reaching California. 
Like her brother, she was resolute and resourceful, 
and almost like a mother to the younger sister and 
the young wife and baby. And such a baby! If 
one were to judge by the actions of all the mem- 
bers of that camp, the conclusion would be reached 
there was no other baby on earth. All seemed re- 
joiced to know there was a baby in camp; young 
(only seven weeks old when we started) but strong 
and grew apace as the higher altitude was reached 

Eliza, the younger sister, a type of the healthy, 
handsome American girl, graceful and modest, be- 
came the center of attraction upon which a ro- 
mance might be written, but as the good elderly lady 
still lives, the time has not yet come, and so we must 
draw the veil. 

Of the two Davenport brothers, Jacob, the young- 
est, became ill at Soda Springs, was confined to the 
wagon for more than seven hundred miles down 
Snake River in that intolerable dust, and finally 
died soon after we arrived in Portland. 

John, the elder brother, always fretful, but will- 
ing to do his part, has passed out of my knowl- 
edge. Both came of respected parents on an adjoin- 
ing farm to that of my own home near Indianapolis, 
but I have lost all trace of him. 

Perhaps the general reader may not take even a 
passing interest in this little party (family) here de- 
scribed. I can only say that this was typical of many 
on the Trail of '52. The McAuleys or Buck and oth- 
ers of our party could be duplicated in larger or 
smaller parties all along the line. There were hun- 
dreds of noble men trudging up the Platte at that 
time in an army over five hundred miles long, many 
of whom "laid down," a sacrifice to their duty, or 
maybe to inherent weakness of their system. While 
it is true such experience brings out the worst fea- 
tures of individual characters, yet it is also true 
that the shining virtues come to the front likewise; 
like pure gold, they are found where least expected. 

— 19 — 

Of the fortitude of the women one cannot say toe 

much. Embarrassed at the start by the follies of 
fashion (and long dresses which were quickly dis- 
carded and the bloomer donned), they soon rose to 
the occasion and cast false modesty aside. Could 
we but have had the camera (of course not then in 
existence) trained on one of those typical camps, 
what a picture there would be. Elderly matrons 
dressed almost like the little sprite miss of tender 
years of today. The younger women were rather 
shy of accepting the inevitable, but finally fell into 
the procession, and we had a community of women 
wearing bloomers without invidious comment, or, in 
fact, any comment at all. Some of them went bare- 
foot or wore moccasins, partly from choice and in 
some cases from necessity. The same could be said 
of the men, as shoe leather began to grind out from 
the sand and dry heat. Of all the fantastic costumes 
it is safe to say the like was never seen before, and 
probably never will again. The scene beggars de- 
scription. Patches became visible upon the cloth- 
ing of preachers as well as laymen; the situations 
brooked no respecter of persons. The grandmoth- 
er's cap was soon displaced by a handkerchief or 
perhaps a bit of cloth. Grandfather's high crowned 
hat disappeared as if by magic. Hatless and boot* 
less men became a common sight. Bonnetless wom- 
en were to be seen on all sides. They wore what 
they had left or could get, without question as to 
the fitness of things. Rich dresses were worn by 
some ladies because they had no others; the gentle- 
men drew upon their wardrobes until scarcely a fine 
unsoiled suit was left. 

The dust has been spoken of as intolerable. The 
word hardly expresses the situation; in fact, the 
English language contains no words to properly ex- 
press it. Here was a moving mass of humanity and 
dumb brutes, at times mixed in inextricable confu- 
sion, a hundred feet wide or more. Sometimes two 
columns of wagons traveling on parallel lines and 
near each other would serve as a barrier to prevent 

— 20 — 

loose stock from crossing; but usually there would 
be a confused mass of cows, young cattle, horses, 
and footmen moving along the outskirts. Here and 
there would be the drivers of loose stock, some on 
foot and some on horseback; — a young girl, maybe, 
riding astride, with a younger child behind, going; 
here and there after an intractible cow, while the 
mother could be seen in the confusion lending a 
helping hand. As in a thronged city street, no one 
seemed to look to the right or to the left, or to pay. 
much, if any, attention to others, but bent alone on 
accomplishing the task in hand. Over all, in calm 
weather at times, the dust would settle so thick 
that the lead team of oven could not be seen from 
the wagon — like a London fog, so thick one might 
almost cut it.* Then again, at certain intervals, 
that steady flow of wind up to and through the South 
Pass would hurl the dust and sand in one's face 
sometimes with force enough to sting from the im- 
pact upon the face and hands. 

Then we had storms that were not of sand and 
wind alone; — storms that only a Platte Valley in 
summer or a Puget Sound winter might turn out; — 
storms that would wet one to the skin in less time 
than it takes to write this sentence. One such I re- 
member being caught in while out on watch. The 
cattle traveled so fast it was difficult to keep up 
with them. I could do nothing else than follow, 
as it would have been as impossible to turn them as 
it would to change the direction of the wind. I have 
always thought of this as a cloudburst. Anyway, 
there was not a dry thread left on me in an incredi- 

*The author spent four winters in London on the 
world's hop market, and perhaps has a more vivid 
recollection of what is meant by a London fog than 
would be understood by the general reader. I have 
seen the fog and smoke there so black that one 
could not see his hand held at arm's length, and it 
reminded me of some scenes in the dust on the 

_21 — 

bl\ short time. My boots were as full of water as 
ifl had been wading over boot-top deep, and the 
water ran through my hat as though it was a sieve, 
almost blinding we in the fury ot wind and water. 
Many tents were leveled, and, in fact, such occur- 
rences as fallen tents were not uncommon. 

One of our neighboring trains suffered no incon- 
>iderab!e loss by the sheets of water on the ground, 
tloating their cainp equipage, ox yokes, and all loose 
articles away; and they only narrowly escaped 
having a wagon engulfed in the raging torrent that 
came so unexpectedly upon them. Such were some 
of the discomforts on the Plains in '52. 

Trouble with the Indians. 

As soon as a part of our outfits were landed on 
the right bank of the river our trouble with the In- 
dians began, not in open hostilities, but in robbery 
under the guise of beggary. The word had been 
passed around in our little party that not one cent's 
worth of provisions would we give up to the Indians, 
— believing this policy was our only safeguard from 
spoliation, and in that we were right. The women 
folks had been taken over the river with the first 
wagon, and sent off a little way to a convenient 
camp, so that the first show of arms came from 
that side of our little community, when some of 
I he bolder Pawnees attempted to pilfer around the 
wagons. But no blood was shed, and I may say 
in passing there was none shed by any of our party 
during the entire trip, though there was a show of 
arms in several instances. One case in particular 
1 remember. Soon after we had left the Missouri 
River we came to a small bridge over a washout 
across the road, evidently constructed very recently 
by some train just ahead of us. The Indians had 
taken possession and demanded pay for crossing. 
Some ahead of us had paid, while others were hesi- 
tating, but with a few there was a determined reso- 
lution not to pay. When our party came up it re- 
mained for that fearless man, McAuley, in quite short 

— 22- 

order to clear the way though the Indians were 
there in considerable numbers. McAuley said, "You 
fellers come right on, for I'm going across that 
bridge if I have to run right over that Ingen settin' 
there." And he did almost run over the Indian, who 
at the last moment got out of the way of his team, 
which was followed in such quick succession and 
with such a show of arms that the Indians with- 
drew, and left the road unobstructed. 

In another instance, I came very near getting into 
serious trouble with three Indians on horseback. We 
had hauled off away from the road to get water, I 
think, and became separated from the passing throng, 
and almost, but not quite out of sight of any wagons 
or camps. The Indians came up ostensibly to beg. 
but really to rob, and first began to solicit, and 
afterwards to threaten. T started to drive on. not 
thinking they would use actual violence, as there 
were other emigrants certainly within a half-mile, 
and thought tliey were merely trying to frighten 
me into giving up at least a part of my outfit. 
Finally one of the Indians whipped out his knife 
and cut loose the cow that T was leading behind the 
wagon. T did not have to ask for my gun. as my 
courageous wife in the wagon, who had seen the 
act, believed, as T did, that the time had come to 
fight, and handed me my trusty rifle out under the 
cover, and before the savages had time to do any- 
thin? further they saw the gun. They were near 
enough to make it certain that one shot would 
take deadly effect, but instead of shooting one, I 
trained the gun in the direction so I might quickly 
choose between the three, and in an instant each 
Indian was under cover on his horse, and speeding 
away in great haste. The old story that "almost 
anyone will fight when cornered" was exemplified 
in this incident, but I did not want any more such 
experiences and consequently thereafter became 
more careful. 

We did not. however, have much trouble with the 
Indians in 1852. The facts are, the great numbers of 

— 23 — 

emigrants, coupled with the superiority of their 
arms, placed them on comparatively safe grounds. 
And it must be remembered, also, that this was be- 
fore the treaty-making period, which has so often 
been followed by bloodshed and war. 

But to return to the river bank. We crossed on 
the 17th and 18th of May, and drove out a short 
way on the 19th, but not far enough to be out of 
hearing of a shrill steamboat whistle that resounded 
over the prairie, announcing the arrival of a steamer. 

I never knew the size of that steamer, or the 
name, but only know that a dozen or more wagons 
could be crossed at once, and that a dozen or more 
trips could be made during the day, and as many 
more at night, and that we were overtaken by this 
throng of a thousand wagons thrown upon the road, 
that pave us some trouble and much discomfort. 

Outbreak of Cholera. 

And now that we were fairly on the way the 
whole atmosphere, so to speak, seemed changed. 
Instead of the discordant violin and more discordant 
voices, with the fantastic night open air dances with 
mother earth as a floor, there soon prevailed a 
more sober mein, even among the young people, as 
they began to encounter the fatigue of a day's drive 
and the cares of a night watch. With so many, the 
watchword was to push ahead and make as big a 
day's drive as possible; hence it is not to be won- 
dered at that nearly the whole of the thousand 
wagons that crossed the river after we did soon 
passed us. 

"Now, fellers, j is t let 'em rush on, and keep cool, 
we'll overcatch them afore long," said McAuley. And 
we did, and passed many a broken-down team, the 
result of that first few days of rush. It was this 
class that unloaded such piles of provisions, noted 
elsewhere, in the first two hundred mile stretch, and 
that fell such easy prey to the ravages of the epi- 
demic of cholera that struck the moving column 
where the throng from the south side of the Platte 

— 24 — 

began crossing. As I recollect this, it must have 
been near where the city of Kearney now stands, 
which is about two hundred miles west of the Mis- 
souri River. We had been in the buffalo country 
several days, and some of our young men had had 
the keen edge of the hunting zeal worn off by a 
day's ride in the heat. A number of them were 
sick from the effects of overheating and indiscreet 
drinking of impure water. Such an experience came 
vividly home to me in the case of my brother Oliver, 
who had outfitted with our Hoosier friends near 
Indianapolis, but had crossed the Missouri River in 
company with us. Being of an adventurous spirit, 
he could not restrain his ardor, and gave chase to 
the buffaloes, and fell sick almost unto death. This 
occurred just at the time when we had encountered 
the cholera panic, and of course it must be the 
cholera that had seized him with such an iron grip, 
argued some of his companions. His old-time com- 
rades and neighbors, all but two, said they could not 
delay. I said, "It's certain death to take him along 
in that condition," which they admitted was true. 
"Divide the outfit, then." The Davenport boys said 
they would not leave my brother, and so their por- 
tion of the outfit was put out also, which gave the 
three a wagon and team. Turning to Buck, I said, 
"I can't ask you to stay with me.' - The answer 
came back quick as a flash, "I am going to stay 
with you without asking," and he did, too, though 
my brother was almost a total stranger. We nursed 
the sick man for four days amidst scenes of excite- 
ment and death I hope never to witness again, with 
the result that on the fifth day we were able to go 
on and take the convalescent with us and thus saved 
his life. It was at this point the sixteen hundred 
wagons passed us as noted elsewhere in the four 
days' detention, and loose stock so numerous, we 
made no attempt to count them. 

Of course, this incident is of no particular impor- 
tance, except to illustrate what life meant in those 
strenuous days. The experience of that camp was 

— 25 — 

i he experience, I may say, of hundreds of others; 
of friends parting; of desertion; of noble sacrifice; 
of the revelation of the best and worst of the inner 
man. Like the shifting clouds of a brightening sum- 
mer day, the organized trains seemed to dissolve and 
disappear, while no one, apparently, knew what had 
become of their component parts, or whither they 
had gone. 

There did seem instances that would convert the 
most skeptical to the Presbyterian doctrine of total 
depravity, so brutal and selfish were the actions of 
some men; brutal to men and women alike; to dumb 
brutes, and in fact to themselves. And, yet, it is a 
pleasure to record that there were numerous in- 
stances of noble self-sacrifice, of helpfulness, of use- 
fulness, to the point of imperiling their own lives. 
It became a common saying to know one's neigh- 
bors, the}' must be seen on the plains. 

The army of loose stock that accompanied this 
huge caravan, a column, we may almost say, of five 
hundred miles long without break, added greatly 
to the discomfort of all. Of course, the number ot 
cattle and horses will never be known, but their 
number was legion compared to those that labored 
under the yoke, or in the harness. A conservative 
estimate would be not less than six animals to the 
wagon, and surely there were three times as many 
loose animals to each one in the teams. By this 
it would appear that as sixteen hundred wagons 
passed while we tarried four days, nearly ten thou- 
sand beasts of burden and thitry thousand loose 
stock accompanied them. As to the number of per- 
sons, certainly there were five to the wagon, per- 
haps more, but calling it five, eight thousand peo- 
ple, men, women and children, passed on during 
those four days — many to their graves not afar 

We know by the inscribed dates found on Inde- 
pendence Rock and elsewhere that there were wa- 
gons full three hundred miles ahead of us. The 
throng had continued to pass the river more than 

— 26 — 

a month after we had crossed, so that it does not 
require a stretch of the imagination to say the col- 
umn was five hundred miles long, and like Sherman's 
march through Georgia, fifty thousand strong. 

Of the casualties in that mighty army I scarcely 
dare guess. It is certain that history gives no 
record of such great numbers migrating so long a 
distance as that of the Pioneers of the Plains, where, 
the dead lay in rows of fifties and groups of sev- 
enties. Shall we say ten per cent fell by the wayside? 
Many will exclaim that estimate is too low. Ten 
per cent would give us five thousand sacrifices of 
lives laid down even in one year to aid in the effort 
to recover the great empire, the Oregon country. 
The roll-call was never made, and we know not 
how many there were. The list of mortalities is un- 
known, and so we are lost in conjecture, and now we 
only know that the unknown and unmarked graves 
have gone into oblivion. 

Volumes could be written of life on the Plains and 
yet leave the story not half told. In some manu- 
script before me I read, "found a family, consisting 
of husband, wife and four small children, whose cat- 
tle we supposed had given out and died. They were 
here all alone, and no wagon or cattle in sight" — had 
been thrown out by the owner of a wagon and left 
on the road to die. In a nearby page I read, "Here 
we met Mr. Lot Whitcom, direct from Oregon — . 
Told me a great deal about Oregon. He has pro- 
visions, but none to sell, but gives to all he finds in 
want, and who are unable to buy." These stories of 
the good Samaritan, and the fiendish actions of 
others could be multiplied indefinitely, but I quote 
only extracts from these two, written on the spot, 
that well illustrates the whole. 

Mrs. Cecelia Emily McMillen Adams, late of 
Hillsboro, Oregon, crossed the Plains in 1852, and 
kept a painstaking daily diary, and noted the graves 
passed, and counted them. Her diary is published 
in full by the Oregon Pioneer Association, 1904. I 
note the following: "June fourteenth. Passed seven 

— 27 — 

new made graves. June 15th. Sick headache, not 
able to sit up. June 16th. Passed 11 new graves. 
June 17th. Passed six new graves. June 18th. We 
have passed twenty-one new made graves today. 
Tune 19th. Passed thirteen graves today. June 20th. 
"Passed ten graves. June 21st. No report. June 
22nd. Passed seven graves. If we should go by all 
the camping grounds, we should see five times as 
many graves as we do." 

This report of seventy-five dead in 106 miles, and 
that "if we should go by all the camping grounds we 
should see five times as many graves as we do" 
coupled with the fact that a parallel column from 
which we have no report was traveling up the Platte 
on the south side of the river, and that the outbreak 
of the cholera had taken place originally in this 
column coming from the southeast, fully confirms 
the estimate of 5,000 deaths on the Plains in 1852. 
It is in fact rather under than over the actual num- 
ber who laid down their lives that year. I have mis- 
laid the authority, but at the time I read it, believed 
the account to be true, of a scout that passed over 
the ground late that year (1852) from the Loop Fork 
of the Platte to the Laramie, a distance approximat- 
ing 400 miles, that by actual count in great part and 
conservative estimate of the remainder, there were 
six fresh graves to the mile for the whole distance — 
this, it is to be remembered, on the one side of the 
river in a stretch where for half the distance of a 
parallel column traveling on the opposite bank, where 
like conditions prevailed. 

A few more instances must suffice to complete 
this chapter of horrors. 

L. B. Rowland, now of Eugene, Oregon, recently 
told me the experience of his train of twenty-three 
persons, between the two crossings of the Snake 
River, of which we have just written. Of the twen- 
ty-three that crossed, eleven died before they reached 
the lower crossing.* 

*It is but 125 miles between the two crossings. 
— 28 — 

Mrs. M. E. Jones, now of North Yakima, states 
that forty people of their train died in one day and 
two nights, before reaching the crossing of the 
Platte. Martin Cook, of Newberg, Oregon, is my 
authority for the following: A family of seven per- 
sons, the father known as "Dad Friels," from Hart- 
ford, Warren County, Iowa, all died of cholera 
and were buried in one grave. He could not tell 
me the locality nor the exact date, but it would be 
useless to search for the graves, as all have long 
ago been leveled by the passing hoofs of the buffalo 
or domestic stock, or met the fate of hundreds of 
shallow graves, having been desecrated by hungry 

In my trip of 1910 I met and conversed with 
Robert Harvy, who told me of what he had seen 
on the Oregon Trail in Nebraska forty years ago. 
Mr. Harvey has embodied in writing a part of the 
dreadful story. He is a gentleman of high repute 
and those who know him will know he h,-is told th(. 
truth. The letter follows: 

Lincoln, Neb., Oct. 16. 1010. 
My Dear Mr. Meeker: 

I have been reading your "Oregon Trail'' and find 
much that is interesting, but there are some things 
your readers may not be able to appreciate, for the 
reason that they are unable to understand the condi- 
tions that existed during the period of which you 
write; for instance, you speak of the fearful mortality 
among many overland trains on account of cholera — 
and the evidences seen and found along the route in 
your trip across the Plains in 1852. 

In 1869, I traveled from the 100th meridian in 
Nebraska along the overland route on the north 
side of the Platte River to near the Blue Water 
Creek, in Gordon County, and could easily identify 
the old camping places by the natural condition and 
the marks of camp life, which will remain for many 
years. At the crossing of streams, and on the spurs 

— 29 — 

and hilltops could be found the graves of the brave 
pioneers who had the courage to penetrate this vast 
unknown region, and who, with their wives and chil- 
dren, dared to traverse that dangerous trail to the 
Pacific Coast, beset with, wild beasts, savages and 
dread disease. Close by one of these old camps 
on a gentle slope we counted twenty-seven graves 
and rudely carved on a short board stuck in the 
ground was the simple but suggestive word "Chol- 

At another place near the crossing of a very, 
very small stream we counted over forty graves with 
"Died of Cholera'' cut into a piece of hardwood, 
probably a part of a wagon. At another place on a 
gentle east slope, which I think must have been on 
the west side of Adar or Otter Creek, in Keith Coun- 
ty, we made out the outlines of sixty-three graves, 
and one of the several tracks or trails probably ob- 
literated others on that end. A piece of board was 
found lying among the graves marked "Cholera." 
Near the first mentioned camp was found in some 
low bushes two hand carts similar to those de- 
scribed in the history of Mormon emigration, which 
led us to the conclusion that the disease had de- 
populated the train or had carried off the owners 
of the carts. 

If this was the visible evidence of mortality in 
less than 75 miles along part of the route we trav- 
eled, what are we to judge of the evidences not 
seen by us or were at that time so obliterated as to 
be wholly hidden from view? 

We observed that many of the graves were verj' 
short or medium and no doubt contained the bodies 
of children, young people and women, who naturally 
were more subject to attack than men. 

When I reflect on the evidences of death along 
those trails as I saw them before the destructive 
agencies of time and civilization, I am lost in won- 
der and admiration at the courage and sublime faith 
of the /women and children in the sturdy husbands 

— 30 — 

and fathers who braved (he dangers of an unknown 

It is lamentable that time and the destructive 
agencies of frontier civilization almost obliterated 
any mark of the last resting places of the thousands 
who sleep beside the overland trails. 

Very truly yours, 


State Surveyer. 

One of the incidents that made a profound im- 
pression upon the minds of all; the meeting of eleven 
wagons returning and not a man left in the entire 
train; — all had died, and had been buried on the 
way, and the women were returning alone from a 
point well up on the Platte below Fort Laramie. 
The difficulties of a return trip were multiplied 
on account of the passing throng moving westward. 
How they succeeded, or what became of them I 
never knew, but we did know a terrible task lay 
before them. 

As the column passed up the Platte, there came 
some relief for awhile from the dust and a visible 
thinning out of the throng; some had pushed on 
and gotten out of the way of the congested district, 
while others had lagged behind; and then it was pat- 
ent that the missing dead left not only a void in the 
hearts of their comrades, but also a visible space 
upon the road, while their absence cast a gloom over 
many an aching heart. 

As we gradually ascended the Sweetwater, the 
nights became cooler, and finally, the summit 
reached, life became more tolerable and suffering 
less acute. The summit of the Rocky Mountains, 
7,450 feet, through the South Pass presents a wide, 
open undulating country that extends for a long 
distance at a very high altitude, probably 6,000 feet 
above sea level, until Bear River is reached, a dis- 
tance of over 150 miles. This is a region of scant 

— 31 — 

herbage and almost destitute of water, except at 
river crossings, for on this stretch of the Trail, the 
way leads across the water courses, and not with 

The most attractive natural phenomena encoun- 
tered on the whole trip are the soda springs near 
the Bear River, and in fact right in the bed of the 
river. One of these, the Steam-boat spring, was 
spouting at regular intervals as we passed. These 
have, however, ceased to overflow as in 1852, as I 
learned on my recent trip. 

When the Snake River was reached and in fact 
before, the heat again became oppressive, the dust 
stifling, and thirst at times almost maddening. In 
some places we could see the water of the Snake, 
but could not reach it as the river ran in the in- 
accessible depths of the canyon. Sickness again 
became prevalent, and another outbreak of cholera 
claimed many victims. 

There were but few ferries and none in many 
places where crossings were to be made, and where 
here and there a ferry was found the charges were 
high — or perhaps the word should be, exorbitant — 
and out of reach of a large majority of the emi- 
grants. In my own case, all my funds had been ab- 
sorbed in procuring my outfit at Eddyville, Iowa, 
not dreaming there would be use for money "on 
the Plains" where there were neither supplies nor 
people. We soon found out our mistake, however, 
and sought to mend matters when opportunity of- 
fered. The crossing of the Snake River, though 
late in the trip, gave the opportunity. 

Just below lower Salmon Falls the dilemma con- 
fronted us to either cross the river or starve our 
teams on the trip down the river on the south bank. 

The emigration of 1843 had forded the river low- 
er down at a point later known as Glenn's Ferry. 
It was extremely hazardous at that time. Fremont, 
crossing at the same time, narrowly escaped losing 
his famous gun and then got out his boats. Subse- 
quent changes in the channel and the formation of 

— 32 — 

a new island made it imperative to seek some other 
method of crossing. 

Some emigrants had calked three wagon-beds and 
lashed them together, and were crossing, but would 
not help others across for less than three to five 
dollars a wagon, the party swimming their own 
stock. If others could cross in wagon-beds, why 
could I not do likewise? and without much ado all 
the old clothing that could possibly be spared was 
marshaled, tar buckets ransacked, old chisels and 
broken knives hunted up, and a veritable boat re- 
pairing and calking campaign inaugurated, and short- 
ly the wagon-box rode placidly, even if not grace- 
fully on the turbid waters of the formidable river. 
It had been my fortune to be the strongest physi- 
cally of any of our little party now reduced to four 
men, though I would cheerfully accept a second 
place mentally. My boyhood pranks of playing with 
logs or old leaky skiffs in the waters of White River 
now served me well, for I could row a boat even if 
I had never taken lessons as an athlete. My first 
venture across the Snake River was with the wagon 
gear run over the wagon-box, the whole being grad- 
ually worked out into deep water. The load was so 
heavy that a very small margin was left to prevent 
the water from breaking over the sides, and some 
actually did, as light ripples on the surface struck 
the "Mary Jane," as wc had christened (without 
wine) the "craft" as she was launched. However. 
I got over safely, but after that took lighter loads 
and really enjoyed the novelty of the work and 
the change from the intolerable dust to the atmo- 
sphere of the water. 

Some were so infatuated with the idea of floating 
on the water as to be easily persuaded by an un- 
principled trader at the lower crossing to dispose 
of their teams for a song, and embark in their 
wagon-beds for a voyage down the river. It is 
needless to say that these persons (of whom there 
were a goodly number) lost everything they had and 
some, their lives, the survivors, after incredible 

— 33 — 

hardships, reaching the road again to become ob- 
jects of charity while separated entirely _ from 
friends. I knew one survivor, who yet lives in our 
State, who was out seven days without food other 
than a scant supply of berries and vegetable growth 
and "a few crickets, but not many," as it was too 
laborious to catch them. 

We had no trouble to cross the cattle, although 
the river was wide. Dandy would do almost any- 
thing I asked of him, so, leading him to the water's 
edge, with a little coaxing, I got him into swim- 
ming water and guidro him across with the wagon- 
bed, while the otheis all followed, having been driven 
into the deep water following the leader. It seems 
almost incredible how passively obedient cattle will 
become after long training on such a trip, in cross- 
ing streams. 

We had not finished crossing when tempting of- 
fers came from others to cross them, but all our 
party said "No, we must travel." The rule had been 
adopted to travel some every day possible. "Travel 
travel, travel," was the watchword, and nothing 
could divert us from that resolution, and so on the 
third day we were ready to pull out from the river 
with the cattle rested from the enforced deten- 

But what about the lower crossing? Those who 
had crossed over the river must somehow get back. 
It was less than 150 miles to where we were again 
to cross to the south side (left bank) of the river. 
I could walk that in four days, while it would take 
our teams ten. Could I go on ahead, procure a 
wagou-box and start a ferry of my own? The 
thought prompted an affirmative answer at once; 
so with a little food and a small blanket the trip 
to the lower crossing was made. It may be ludi- 
crous, but is true, that the most I remember about 
that trip is the jackrabbits — such swarms of them 
I had never seen before as I traveled down the 
Boise Valley, and never expect to again. 

The trip was made in safety, but conditions were 

— 34 — 

different. At the lower crossing, as I have already 
said, some were disposing of their teams and start- 
ing to float down the river; some were fording, a 
perilous undertaking, but most of them succeeded 
who tried, and besides a trader whose name I have 
forgotten had an established ferry near the old fort 
(Boise). I soon obtained a wagon-bed, and was a* 
work during all the daylight hours (no eight-hour-a- 
day there) crossing people till the teams came up 
(and for several days after), and left the river with 
$110 in my pocket, all of which was gone before I 
arrived in Portland, save $2.75. 

I did not look upon that work then other than 3<- 
a part of the trip, to do the best we could. None 
of us thought we were doing a heroic act in cross- 
ing the plains and meeting emergencies as they 
arose. In fact, we did not think at all of that phase 
of the question. Many have, however, in later life 
looked upon their achievements with pardonable 
pride, and some in a vain-glorious mood of mind. 

A very pleasant incident recently occurred in re- 
viving memories of this episode of my life, while 
visiting my old-time friend, Edward J. Allen. It was 
my good fortune to be able to spend several days 
with that grand "Old Timer" at his residence in 
Pittsburg, Pa. We had not met for fifty years. The 
reader may readily believe there had been great 
changes with both of us, as well as in the world at 
large in that half century of our lives. My friend 
had crossed the plains the same year I did, and al- 
though a single man and young at that, had kept a 
diary all the way. Poring over this venerable manu- 
script one day while I was with him, Mr. Allen ran 
across this sentence "The Meeker brothers sold out 
their interest in the ferry today for $185, and left 
for Portland." Both had forgotten the partnership 
though each remembered their experience of the 
ferrying in wagon-boxes. 

From the lower crossing of the Snake River, at 
Old Fort Boise to The Dalles is approximately 350 
miles. It became a serious question with many 

— 35 — 

whether there would be enough provisions left to 
keep starvation from the door, or whether the teams 
could muster strength to take the wagons in. Many 
wagons were left by the wayside. Everything possi- 
ble shared the same fate; provisions and provisions 
only were religiously cared for — in fact starvation 
stared many in the face. Added to the weakened 
condition of both man and beast small wonder if 
some thoughtless persons would take to the river in 
their wagon-beds, many to their death, and the re- 
maining to greater hardships. 

1 can not give an adequate description of the dust, 
which seemed to get deeper and more impalpable 
every day. I might liken the wading in the dust 
to wading in water as to resistance. Oftentimes the 
dust would lie in the road full six inches deep, and 
<o fine that one wading through it would scarcely 
leave a track. And sucli clouds when disturbed — ■ 
no words can describe it. 


*A chapter from Pioneer Reminiscences, by the 
author, published 1905. $2.25. 

"On a September day of 1852 an assemblage of 
persons could be seen encamped on the banks of 
the great Columbia, aL The Dalles, now a city of 
no small pretensions, but then only a name for 
the peculiar configuration of country adjacent to 
and including the waters of the great river. 

One would soon discover this assemblage was 
constantly changing. Every few hours stragglers 
came in from off the dusty road, begrimed with 
the sweat of the brow commingled with particles 
of dust driven through the air, sometimes by a 
gentle breeze and then again by a violent gale 
sweeping up the river through the mountain gap 
of the Cascade Range. A motley crowd these 
people were, almost cosmopolitan in nationality, 
yet all vestige of race peculiarities or race preju- 
dice ground away in the mill of adversity and 

— 36 — 

trials common to all alike in common danger. 
And yet, the dress and appearance of this assem- 
blage were as varied as the human countenance 
and as unique as the great mountain scenery before 
them. Some were clad in scanty attire as soiled with 
the dust as their brows; others, while with better 
pretentions, lacked some portions of dress required 
in civilized life. Here a matronly dame with clean 
apparel would be without shoes, or there, perhaps, 
the husband without the hat or perhaps both shoes 
and hat absent; there the youngsters of all ages, 
making no pretentions to genteel clothing other 
than to cover their nakedness. An expert's in- 
genuity would be taxed to the utmost to discover 
either the texture or original color of the clothing' 
of either juvenile or adult, so prevailing was the 
patch work and so inground the particles of dust 
and sand from off the plains. 

Some of these people were buoyant and hopeful 
in the anticipation of meeting friends whom they 
knew were awaiting them at their journey's end, 
while others were downcast and despondent as their 
thoughts went back to their old homes left be- 
hind, and the struggle now so near ended, and for- 
ward to the (to them) unknown land ahead. Some 
had laid friends and relatives tenderly away in the 
shifting sands, who had fallen by the wayside, with 
the certain knowledge that with many the spot 
selected by them would not be the last resting 
place for the bones of the loved ones. The hunger 
of the wolf had been appeased by the abundance 
of food from the fallen cattle that lined the trail 
for a thousand miles or more, or from the weak- 
ened beasts of the emigrants that constantly sub- 
mitted to capture by the relentless native animals. 

The trials that beset the people after their five 
months' struggle on the tented field of two thou- 
sand miles of marching were ended, where, like on 
the very battlefield, the dead lay in rows of fifties 
or more; where the trail became so lined with 
fallen animals, one could scarcely be out of sight or 

— 37 — 

smell of carrion; where the sick had no respite from 
suffering, nor the well from fatigue. 

The constant gathering on the bank of the Colum- 
bia and constant departures of the immigrants did 
not materially change the numbers encamped, nor 
the general appearance. The great trip had moulded 
this army of homeseekers into one homogeneous 
mass, a common brotherhood, that left a lasting 
impression upon the participants, and, although few 
are left now, not one but will greet an old com- 
rade as a brother indeed, and in fact, with hearty 
and oftentimes tearful congratulations. 

We camped but two days on the bank of the 
river. When I say we, let it be understood that 
I mean myself, my young wife, and the little baby 
boy, who was but seven weeks old when the start 
was made from near Eddyville, Iowa. Both were 
sick, the mother from gradual exhaustion during 
the trip incident to motherhood, and the little one 
in sympathy, doubtless drawn from the mother's 

Did you ever think of the wonderful mystery of 
the inner action of the mind, how some impressions 
once made seem to remain, while others gradually 
fade away, like the twilight of a summer sunset, 
until finally lost? And then how seemingly trivial 
incidents will be fastened upon one's memory while 
others of more importance we would recall if we 
could, but which have faded forever from our grasp? 
I can well believe all readers have had this ex- 
perience, and so will be prepared to receive with 
leniency the confession of an elderly gentleman, (I 
will not say old), when he says that most of the 
incidents are forgotten and few remembered. I do 
not remember the embarking on the great scow for 
the float down the river to the Cascades, but vividly 
remember, as though it were but yesterday, inci- 
dents of the voyage. We all felt (I now mean the 
immigrants who took passage) that now our jour- 
ney was ended. The cattle had been unyoked for 
the last time. The wagons had been rolled to the 
last bivouac; the embers of the last camp fire had 

— 38 — 

died out; the last word of gossip had been spoken, 
and now, we were entering a new field with new 
present experience, and with new expectancy for 
the morrow. 

The scow or lighter upon which we took passage 
was decked over, but without railing, a simple, 
smooth surface upon which to pile our belongings, 
that, in the majority of cases made but a very 
small showing. I think there must have been a 
dozen families, of sixty or more persons, princi- 
pally women and children, as the young men (and 
some old ones, too) were struggling on the moun- 
tain trail to get the teams through to the west 
side. The whole deck surface of the scow was cov- 
ered with the remnants of the immigrants' outfits, 
which in turn were covered by the owners, either 
sitting or reclining upon their possessions, leaving 
but scant room to change position or move about 
in any way. 

Did you ever, reader, have tne experience when 
some sorrow overtook you, or when some disap- 
pointment had been experienced, or when deferred 
hopes had not been realized, or sometimes even 
without these and from some unknown, subtle cause, 
feel that depression of spirits that for lack of a 
better name we call "the blues?" When the world 
ahead looked dark; when hope seemed extinguished 
and the future looked like a blank? Why do I ask 
this question? I know you all to a greater or less 
degree have had just this experience. Can you 
wonder that after our craft had been turned loose 
upon the waters of the great river, and begun 
floating lazily down with the current, that such a 
feeling as that described would seize us as with an 
iron grip? We were like an army that had burned 
the bridges behind them as they marched, and with 
scant knowledge of what lay in the track before 
them. Here we were, more than two thousand 
miles from home, separated by a trackless, unin- 
habited waste of country, impossible for us to re- 
trace our steps. Go ahead we must, no matter what 

— 39 — 

we were to encounter. Then, too, the system had 
been strung up for months, to duties that could 
not be avoided or delayed, until many were on 
the verge of collapse. Some were sick and all 
reduced in flesh from the urgent call for camp 
duty, and lack of variety of food. Such were the 
feelings and condition of the motley crowd of sixty 
persons as we slowly neared that wonderful crevice 
through which the great river flows while passing 
the Cascade mountain range. 

For myself, I can truly say, that the trip had 
not drawn on my vitality as I saw with so many. 
True, I had been worked down in flesh, having lost 
nearly twenty pounds on the trip, but what weight 
I had left was the bone and sinew of my system, 
that served me so well on this trp and has been my 
comfort in other walks of life at a later period. 
And so, if asked, did you experience hardships 
on the trip across the plains, I could not answer 
yes without a mental reservation that it might have 
been a great deal worse. I say the same as to 
after experience, for these subsequent sixty years 
or more of pioneer life, having been blessed with a 
good constitution, and being now able to say that 
in the fifty-eight years of our married life, the wife 
has never seen me a day sick in bed. But this 
is a digression and so we must turn our attention 
to the trip on the scow, "floating down the river." 

In our company, a party of three, a young mar- 
ried couple and an unmarried sister, lounged on their 
belongings, listlessly watching the ripples on the 
water, as did also others of the party. But little 
conversation was passing. Each seemed to be com- 
muning with himself or herself, but it was easy to 
see what were the thoughts occupying the minds 
of all. The young husband, it was plain to be seen, 
would soon complete that greater journey to the 
unknown beyond, a condition that weighed so 
heavily upon the ladies of the party, that they 
could ill conceal their solicitude and sorrow. Finally, 
to cheer up the sick husband and brother, the ladies 
brgan in sweet subdued voices to sing the old 

— 40 — 

familiar song of Home, Sweet Home, whereupon 
others of the party joined in the chorus with in- 
creased volume of sound. As the echo of the echo 
died away, at the moment of gliding under the 
shadow of the high mountain, the second verse was 
begun, but was never finished. If an electric shock 
had startled every individual of the party, there 
could have been no more simultaneous effect than 
when the second line of the second verse was 
reached, when instead of song, sobs and outcries 
of Rrief poured forth from all lips. It seemed as 
if there was a tumult of despair mingled with 
prayer pouring forth without restraint. The rugged 
boatmen rested upon their oars in awe, and gave 
away in sympathy with the scene before them, until 
it could be truly said no dry eyes were left nor 
aching heart but was relieved. Like the downpour 
of a summer shower that suddenly clears the atmo- 
sphere to welcome the bright shining sun that fol- 
lows, so this suden outburst of grief cleared away 
the despondency to be replaced by an exalted ex- 
hilirating feeling of buoyancy and hopefulness. The 
tears were not dried till mirth took possession — a 
real hysterical manifestation of the whole party, 
that ended all depression for the remainder of the 

But our party was not alone in these trials It 
seems to me as like the dream of seeing some immi- 
grants floating on a submerged raft while on this 
trip. Perhaps, it is a memory of a memory, or of 
a long lost story, the substance remembered, but 
the source forgotten. 

Recently a story was told me by one of the 
actors in the drama, that came near a tragic ending. 
Robert Parker, who still lives at Sumner, one of the 
party, has told me of their experience. John Whit- 
acre, afterwards Governor of Oregon, was the head 
of the party of nine that constructed a raft at The 
Dalles out of dry poles hauled from the adjacent 
country. Their stock was then started out over the 
trail, their two wagons put upon the raft with 
their provisions, bedding, women, and children in 

— 41 — 

the wagons, and the start was made to float down 
the river to the Cascades. They had gotten but a 
few miles until experience warned them. The waves 
swept over the raft so heavily that it was like 
a submerged foundation upon which their wagons 
stood. A landing a few miles out from The Dalles 
averted a total wreck, and afforded opportunity to 
strengthen the buoyancy of their raft by extra tim- 
ber packed upon their backs for long distances. And 
how should they know when they would reach the 
falls? Will they be able to discover the falls and 
then have time to make a landing? Their fears 
finally got the better of them; a line was run ashore 
and instead of making a landing, they found them- 
selves hard aground out of reach of land, except by 
wading a long distance and yet many miles above 
the falls (Cascades). Finally, a scow was procured, 
in which they all reached the head of the Cascades 
in safety. The old pioneer spoke kindly of this 
whole party, one might say affectionately. One, a 
waif picked up on the plains, a tender girl of fifteen, 
fatherless and motherless, and sick — a wanderer 
without relatives or acquaintances — all under the 
sands of the plains — recalled the trials of the trip 
vividly. But, he had cheerful news of her in after 
life, though impossible at the moment to recall her 
name. Such were some of the experiences of the 
finish of the long, wearisome trip of those who 
floated down the river on flatboat and raft. 

The Arrival. 

About nine o'clock at night, with a bright moon 
shining, on October 1st, 1852, I carried my wife in 
my arms up the steep bank of the Willamette River, 
and three blocks away in the town of Portland to a 
colored man's lodging house. 

"Why, suh, I didn't think yuse could do that, yuse 
don't look it," said my colored friend, as I deposited 
my charge in the nice, clean bed in a cozy, little 

— 42 — 

From April until October, we had been on the 
move in the tented field, with never a roof over our 
heads other than the wagon cover or tent, and for 
the last three months, no softer bed than either the 
ground or bottom of the wagon bed. We had found 
a little steamer to carry us from the Cascades to 
Portland, with most of the company that had floated 
down the river from The Dalles, in the great scow. 
At the landing we separated, and knew each other 
but slightly afterwards. The great country, Ore- 
gon, (then including Puget Sound) was large enough 
to swallow up a thousand such immigrations and 
yet individuals be lost to each other, but a sorrier 
mess it would be difficult to imagine than con- 
fronted us upon arrival. Some rain had fallen, and 
more soon followed. With the stumps and logs, 
mud and uneven places, it was no easy matter to find 
a resting place for the tented city so continually 
enlarging. People seemed to be dazed; did not 
know what to do; insufficient shelter to house all; 
work for all impossible; the country looked a veri- 
table great field of forest and mountain. Discour- 
agement and despair seized upon some, while others 
began to enlarge the circle of observation. A few 
had friends and acquaintances, which fact began 
soon to relieve the situation by the removals that 
followed the reunions, while suffering, both mental 
and physical, followed the arrival in the winter 
storm that ensued, yet soon the atmosphere of dis- 
content disappeared, and general cheerfulness pre- 
vailed. A few laid down in their beds not to arise 
again; a few required time to recuperate their lost 
strength, but with the majority, a short time found 
them as active and hearty as if nothing had hap- 

Note. — Readers of this book who .may wish to 
pursue "this subject farther can get a full -account of 
the experiences that followed in sixty, years of 
pioneer life by sending for my work '.'Pioneer. Remi- 
niscences of Puget Sound, the Tragedy of Leschi," 
a volume of 600 page's 7x9, 22 illustrations, elegant 
silk cloth binding, published and sold exclusively by 

— 43 — 

myself; postpaid, $2.25. A history of the Indian war 
of the Northwest, with the author's own experience 
is here recorded, together with the experience of the 
pioneers of that day, and carefully compared with 
the passing official record of the times. A chapter. 
"In the Beginning,'* gives the earlier history of the 
Northwest, including that wonderful story of the 
missionary work among the Indians, begun eighty 
years ago, makes the work complete for students 
of history, from the discovery of the Northwest 
coast to the present time (1905). 


1201 38th Avenue N., Seattle, Washington. 

Ilarvy W. Scott (now decased), the veteran edi- 
tor of the Portland Oregonian, who in his day at- 
tained a National reputation as one of the great edi- 
tors of the time, wrote an editorial column review 
of the work, in which he says: 


We have received a copy of Mr. Ezra Meeker's book, 
bearing the title "Pioneer Reminiscenses of Puget 
Sound." It is a book of high importance and value. It 
goes deeply into the conditions of our pioneer life, in 
which the author bore a conspicuous part. Since the 
Spring of 1853 he has lived continuously at Puget Sound. 
Of the whole history of the country he has been a close 
observer, and in it throughout an active participant. He 
has always been known for marked individuality oi 

The story, in Mr. Meeker's hands, is a drama of in- 
tense interest. It is history, too, not fiction; though it 
comes through his narrative almost in the nature of 
romance. The book will live. It will carry Mr. Meeker's 
name down to future times; for it is a book for which 
there will be no substitute. As a record of pioneer life 
(h a section of the old Oregon Country it will hold al- 
ways a distinct place. To the striking individuality of 
the author, to the vital force of his memory, to th<- 

— 44 — 

earnestness and sincerity of his convictions, to the vi- 
vacity of his early impressions and to the courage that 
ever has characterized him in the maintenance of his 
opinions, we owe the value of this unique production. 
As a contribution to our pioneer history it will take high 
place— above and beyond the controversies that surround 
the name of Governor Stevens in the early history of the 
territory of Washington. This fine narrative, in a word, 
is the epic of Leschl, which has dwelt In the mind of 
Mr Meeker these fifty years. Was the Indian unfortu- 
nate In his life and death whose name finds at last an 
attempt at vindication, which, though perhaps not clear- 
ing It wholly, yet rescues it from perishable memory and 
makes it immortal? 

— 45 — 


The Ox. 

The ox is passing; in fact, has passed. Like the 
old time spinning-wheel and the hand loom, that 
arc only to be seen as mementos of the past, or 
the quaint old cobbler's bench with its hand-made 
lasts and shoe pegs, or the heavy iron bubbling mush 
pots on the crane in the chimney corner; like the 
fast vanishing of the old-time men and women of 
fifty years or more ago — all are passing, to be laid 
aside for the new ways, and the new actors on the 
scenes of life. While these ways and these scenes 
and these actors have had their day, yet their ex- 
periences and the lessons taught are not lost to the 
world, although at times almost forgotten. 

The difference between a civilized and an untu- 
tored people lies in the application of these ex- 
periences; while the one builds upon the foundations 
of the past, which engenders hope and ambition for 
the future, the other has no past, nor aspirations for 
the future. As reverence for the past dies out in 
the breasts of a generation, so likewise patriotism 
wanes. In the measure that the love of the history 
of the past dies, so likewise do the higher aspira- 
tions for the future. To keep the flame of patriotism 
alive we must keep the memory of the past vividly 
in mind. 

Bearing these thoughts in mind, this expedition to 
perpetuate the memory of the old Oregon Trail 
was undertaken. And there was this further 
thought, that here was this class of heroic men and 
women who fought a veritable battle, — a battle of 
peace, to be sure, yet as brave a battle as any ever 
fought by those who faced the cannon's mouth; — 
a battle that was fraught with as momentous re- 
sults as any of the great battles of grim war; — a 
battle that wrested half a continent from the native 
race and from a mighty nation contending for mas- 

— 46 — 

tet-y Iti the unknown regions ef the West — whes« 

name was already almost forgotten, and whose 
track, the battle-ground of peace, was on the verge 
of impending oblivion. Shall this become an estab- 
lished fact? The answer to this is this expedition, 
to perpetuate the memory of the old Oregon Trail, 
and to honor the intrepid pioneers who made it 
and wrested this great region — the "Old Oregon 
Country" — from British rule. 

The ox team was ehosen as a typical reminder ot 
pioneer days, and as an effective instrument to at- 
tract attention, arouse enthusiasm, and as a help to 
secure aid to forward the work of marking the old 
Trail, and erecting monuments in centers of popula- 

The team consisted of one seven-year old ox. 
Twist, and one unbroken range four-year-old steer, 
Dave. When we were ready to start, Twist weighed 
1470 and Dave 1560 pounds respectivly. This order 
of weight was soon changed. In three months' 
time Twist gained 130 and Dave lost 10 pounds. 
All this time I fed with a lavish hand all the rolled 
barley I dare and all the hay they would eat. Dur- 
ing that time thirty-three days lapsed in which we 
did not travel, being engaged either arranging for 
the erection or dedication of monuments. 

The wagon is new woodwork throughout except 
one hub, which did service across the plains in 1853 
The hub-bands, boxes and other irons are from three 
old-time wagons that crossed the plains in early 
days, and differ some in size and shape; hence the 
fore and hind wheel hubs do not match. The axles 
are wood, with the old-time linch pins and steel 
skeins, involving the use of tar and the tar bucket. 
The bed is of the old style "prairie schooner," so 
called, fashioned as a boat, like those of "ye olden 
times." I crossed Snake River in two places in 1852, 
with all I posessed (except the oxen and cows) 
including the running gear of the wagon, in a wag- 
on-box not as good as this one shown in the illus- 

— 47 — 

Ill Gii<5 i'espeCt the Object was attained, that of at- 
tracting attention, with results in part wholly un- 
expected. I had scarcely driven the outfit away from 
my own dooryard till the work of defacing the 
wagon and wagon cover, and even the nice map of 
the old Trail, began. First, I noticed a name or 
two written on the wagon-bed, then a dozen or 
more, all stealthily placed there, until the whole was 
so closely covered there was no room for more. 
Finally l lie vandals began carving initials on the 
wagon bed, cutting off pieces to carry away. Even- 
tually 1 put a stop to it by employing a special 
police, posting notices, and nabbing some in the very 

Many good people have thought there was some or- 
ganization behind this work, or that there had been 
yjovernment aid secured. To all of this class, and 
to those who may read these lines, I will quote from 
the cards issued at the outset: "The expense of 
this expedition to perpetuate the memory of the old 
Oregon Trail, by erecting stone monuments is borne 
by myself except such voluntary aid as may be 
given by those taking an interest in the work, and 
you are respectfully solicited to contribute such sum 
as may be convenient." The use of these cards was 
soon discontinued, however. After leaving Portland 
no more contributions were solicited or in fact re- 
ceived for the general expense of the expedition, 
and only donations for local monuments, to be ex- 
pended by local committees were taken. I found 
this course necessary to disarm criticism of the in- 
veterate croakers, more interested in searching some 
form of criticism than in lending a helping hand. 

To my appeal a generous response has been made, 
however, as attested by the line of monuments be- 
tween Puget Sound and the Missouri River, a brief 
account of which, with incidents of the trip made 
by me with an ox team, will follow. 

— 48 — 


Camp No. 1 was in my front dooryard at Puyal- 
lup, Washington, a town established on my own 
homestead nearly forty years ago, and now on the 
line of the Northern Pacific Railroad, nine miles 
southeast of Tacoma, and thirty miles south of 
Seattle, Washington. In platting the town T dedi- 
cated a park and called it Pioneer Park, and in it 
are the remains of our ivy-covered cabin, where the 
wife of fifty-eight years and I, with our growing 
family, spent so many happy hours. In this same 
town I named the principal thoroughfare Pioneer 
Avenue, and a short street abutting the park Pion- 
eer Way, hence the reader may note it is not a 
new idea to perpetuate the memory of the pioneers. 

No piece of machinery ever runs at the start as 
well as after trial; therefore Camp No. 1 was main- 
tained several days to mend up the weak points, and 
so after a few days of trial everything was pro- 
nounced in order, and Camp No. 2 was pitched in the 
street in front of the Methodist Church of the 
town, and a lecture was delivered in the church 
for the benefit of the expedition. 

I drove to Seattle, passing through the towns of 
Sumner, Auburn and Kent, lecturing in each place, 
with indifferent success, as the people seemed to 
pay more attention to the ox team than they did 
to me, and cared more to be in the open, asking 
trivial questions, than to be listening to the story 
of the Oregon Trail. However, when I came to 
count the results I found ninety-two dollars in my 
pocket, but also found out that I could not lecture 
and make any headway in the work of getting monu- 
ments erected; that I must remain in the open, where 
I could meet all the people and not merely a small 
minority, and so the lecture scheme was soon after 

— 49 — 


Then I thought to arouse an interest and secure 
some aid in Seattle, where I had hosts of friends 
and acquaintances, but nothing came out of the 
effort — my closest friends trying to dissuade me 
from going — and, I may say, actually tried to con- 
vince others that it would not be an act of friend- 
ship to lend any aid to the enterprise. What, for 
lack of a better name, I might call a benign humor 
underlay all this solicitude. I knew, or thought I 
knew, my powers of physical enduranle to warrant 
undertaking the ordeal; that I could successfully make 
the trip, but my closest friends were the most ob- 
durate, and so after spending two weeks in Seattle, 
I shipped my outfit by steamer to Tacoma. Condi- 
tions there were much the same as at Seattle. A 
pleasant incident, however, broke the monotony. 
Henry Hewitt, of Tacoma, drove up alongside my 
team, then standing on Pacific Avenue, and said, 
"Meeker, if you get broke out there on the Plains, 
just telegraph me for money to come back on." T 
said no, "I would rather hear you say to telegraph 
for money to go on with." "All right," came the 
response, "have it that way then," and drove off, 
perhaps not afterwards giving the conversation a 
second thought until he received my telegram, tell- 
ing him I had lost an ox and that I wanted him to 
send me two hundred dollars. As related elsewhere, 
the response came quick, for the next day following 
T received the money. "A friend in need is a friend 

Somehow no serious thought ever entered my 
mind to turn back after once started, no more than 
when the first trip of 1852 was made. 

Almost everyone has just such an experience in 
life, and, after looking back over the vista of years, 
wonder why. In this case I knew it was a case of 
persistence only, to succeed in making the trip, but 
there was more than this: I simply^ wanted to do 
it, and having once resolved to do it, nothing but 
utter physical disability could deter me. 

— 51 — 

From Tacoma I shipped by steamer to Olympia. 

The terminus of the old Trail is but two miles 
distant from Olympia, at Tumw~ater, the extreme 
southern point of Puget Sound, and where the wa- 
ters of the Des Shutes river mingles with the salt 
waters of the Pacific through the channels of Puget 
Sound, Admiralty Inlet and Straits of Fuca, 150 
miles distant. Here was where the first American 
part}' of home-builders rested and settled in 1845 and 
became the end of the Trail, where land and water 
travel meet. At this point 1 set a post, and sub- 
sequently arranged for an inscribed stone to be 
planted to permanently mark the spot. 

I quote from my journal: "Olympia, February 
19th, 1906: — Spent the day canvassing for funds for 
the monument, giving tickets for a lecture in the 
evening in return; what with the receipts at the 
door and collections, found I had $42.00— $21.00 of 
which was given to Allen Weir for benefit of monu- 
ment fund." 

Out on the Trail. 

"Camp 10, Tenino, Feb. 20th: — Went to Tenino on 
train to arrange for meeting and for monument; 
hired horse team to take outfit to Tenino, 16 miles, 
and drove oxen under the yoke; went into camp 
near site of the monument to be erected about 3 p. 

"21st. A red-letter day; drove over to the stone 
quarry and hauled monument over to site, where 
workman followed and put same in place. This 
monument was donated by the Tenino Quarry Com- 
pany and is inscribed, 'Old Oregon Trail, 1845-53'. 
At 2 o'clock the stores were closed, the school chil- 
dren in a body came over and nearly the whole 
population turned out to the dedication of the first 
monument on the Trail. Lectured in the evening 
to a good house — had splendid vocal music. Re- 
cants $16.00." 

The reader will note quotation from my journal, 
"hire horse team to take oufit to Tenino," and won- 

— 52 — 



— 53 

der why I hire a team. I will tell you. Dave, the 
so-called ox, was not an ox 'but simply an unruly 
Montana five-year-old steer and as mean a brute as 
ever walked on four legs. I dare not entrust the 
driving to other hands, and must go ahead to arrange 
for the monument and the lecture. Dave would 
hook and kick and do anything and all things one 
would not want him to do, but to behave himself 
was not a part of his disposition. Besides, he would 
stick his tongue out from the smallest kind of exer- 
tion. At one time I became very nearly discouraged 
with him. He had just been shipped in off the Mon- 
tana cattle range and had never had a rope on him 
— unless it was when he was branded — and like a 
big overgrown booby of a boy, his flesh was flabby 
and he could not endure any sort of exertion with- 
out discomfort. This is the ox that finally made 
the round trip and that bore his end of the 
yoke from the tide waters of the Pacific to the 
tide waters of the Atlantic, at the Battery, New 
York City, and to Washington City to meet the 
president, and has since made a second try over the 
Trail during the summer of 1910 while I was 
searching out and locating the old pathway, he 
finally became subdued, though not conquered; 
to this day I do not trust his heels, though 
he now seldom threatens with his horns. He 
weighed 1,900 pounds — 330 pounds more than he did 
when I first put him under the yoke twenty-two 
months before. The ox "Twist," also shown in the 
illustration, suddenly died August 9th, 1906, and was 
buried within a few rods of the Trail, as told in 
another chapter. It took two months to find a mate 
for the Dave ox, and then had to take another five- 
year-old steer off the cattle range of Nebraska. 
This steer, Dandy evidently had never been 
handled, but he came of good stock and, with 
the exception of awkwardness, gave me no serious 
trouble, Dandy was purchased out of the stock 
yards of Omaha, weighed 1,470 pounds, and the day 
before he went to see the President tipped the 

— 54 — 

scales at the 1,760-pound notch and has proven to be 
a faithful, serviceable ox. 

At Chehalis a point was selected in the center of 
the street at the park, and a post set to mark the 
spot where the monument is to stand. The Com- 
mercial Club undertook the work, but were not ready 
to erect and dedicate, as a more expensive monu- 
ment than one that could be speedily obtained 
would be provided as an ornament to the park. 

I vividly recollected this section of the old Trail, 
having, in company with a brother, packed my 
blankets and "grub" on my back over it in May 
1853, and camped on it near by over night, under the 
sheltering, drooping branches of a friendly cedar 
tree. We did not carry tents on such a trip, but 
slept out under the open canopy of heaven, obtain- 
ing such shelter as we could from day to day. 

It is permissible to note the liberality of H. C. 
Davis, of Claquato, who provided a fund of $50.00 
to purchase one ox for the expedition, the now. fa- 
mous ox Dave that made the round trip to the At- 
lantic and return, and this second trip over the 


John R. Jackson was the first American citizen to 
settle north of the Columbia River. One of the 
daughters, Mrs. Wares, accompanied by her hus- 
band, indicated the spot where the monument should 
be erected, and a post was planted. A touching in- 
cident was that Mrs. Ware was requested to put 
the post in place and hold it while her husband 
tamped the earth around it, which she did with 
tears streaming from her eyes at the thought that 
at last her pioneer father's place in history was to 
be recognized. A stone was ordered at once," to 
soon take the place of the post. 

Toledo, the last place to be reached on the old 
Trail in Washington, is on the Cowlitz, a mile from 
the landing where the pioneers left the river on 
the overland trail to the Sound. 


Portland, Oregon. 

From Toledo I shipped by river steamer the whole 
outfit, and took passage with my assistants to Port- 
land, thus reversing the order of travel in 1853, ac- 
cepting the use of steam instead of the brawn of 
stalwart men and Indians to propel the canoe, and 
arrived on the evening of March 1, and on the morn- 
ing of the 2nd pitched my tent in the heart of the 
city on a beautiful vacant lot, the property of Jacob 
Kamm. 1 remained in camp here until the morning 
of March 9, to test the question of securing aid for 
the expedition. 

Except for the efforts of that indefatigable worker, 
George II. Himes, secretary of the Oregon Pioneer 
Association since 18S6, and assistant secretary of the 
Oregon Historical Society, with headquarters in 
Portland, no helping hand was extended. Not but 
that the citizens took a lively interest in the "novel 
undertaking" in this "unique outfit," yet the fact 
became evident that only the few believed the work 
could be successfully done by individual effort, and 
that government aid should be invoked. The pre- 
vailing opinion was voiced by a prominent citizen, 
a trustee of a church, who voted against allowing 
the use of the church for a lecture for the benefit 
of the expedition, when he said that he "did not want 
to do anything to encourage that old man to go out 
on the Plains to die." Notwithstanding this senti- 
ment, through Mr. Himes' efforts nearly $200 was 

March 10, at 7:00 a. m., embarked at Portland on 
the steamer Bailey Gatzert for the Dalles, which 
place was reached at night, but enlivened by a warm 
reception from the citizens awaiting my arrival, who 
conducted us to a camping place that had been 

Upon this steamer one can enjoy all the luxuries 
of civilized life, a continuous trip now being made 
through the government locks at the Cascades. The 
tables are supplied with all the delicacies the season 

— 56 — 

affords, with clean linen for the beds, and obse- 
quious attendants to supply the wants of travelers. 
"What changes time has wrought," I exclaimed. 
"Can it be the same Columbia River which I tra- 
versed sixty years ago? Yes, there are the mighty 
mountains, the wonderful waterfalls, the sunken for- 
ests, each attesting the identity of the spot, but what 
about the conditions?" The answer can be found 
in the chapter elsewhere in this work, "Floating 
Down the River," illustrating the mighty changes of 
sixty years, when as an emigrant I passed through 
this gap of the Cascades in a flat boat, on the water* 
of the great river. 

The Dalles, Oregon. 

I quote from my journal: 

"The Dalles, Oregon, Camp No. 16, March 10.— 
Arrived last night all in a muss, with load out of 
the wagon, but the mate had his men put the bed 
on, and a number of the willing boys helped to tum- 
ble all loose articles into the wagon while Goebel 
arranged them, leaving the boxes for a second load. 
Drove nearly three-quarters of a mile to a camping 
ground near the park, selected by the citizens; sur- 
prised to find the streets muddy. Cattle impatient 
and walked very fast, necessitating my tramping 
through the mud at their heads. Made second load 
while Goebel put up the tent, and went to bed at 
10:00 o'clock, which was as soon as things were 
aranged for the night. No supper or even tea, as 
wc did not build a fire. It was celar last night, but 
raining this morning, which turned to sleet and 
snow at 9:00 o'clock. 

"March 11. — Heavy wind last night that threatened 
to bring cold weather; ice formed in the camp half 
an inch thick; damper of stove out of order, which, 
filled the tent full of smoke, making life miserable. 
In consequence of the weather, the dedication cere- 
monies were postponed." 

— 57 — 

58 — 

Prior to leaving home I had written to the ladies 
of the landmark committee that upon my arrival 
at the Dalles I would be pleased to have their co- 
operation to secure funds to erect a monument in 
their city. What should they do but put their heads 
together and provide one already inscribed and in 
place and notify me that I had been selected to de- 
liver the dedicatory address, and that it was ex- 
pected the whole city would turn out to witness the 
ceremonies. But, alas, the fierce cold wind spoiled 
all their well-laid plans, for the dedication had to 
be postponed. Finally, upon short notice, the stone 
was duly dedicated on the 12th of March, with a 
few hundred people in attendance with their wraps 
and overcoats. 

Before leaving Seattle I had the oxen shod, for 
which I was charged the unmerciful price of $15, 
but they did such a poor job that by the time I ar- 
rived at The Dalles all the shoes but one were off 
the Dave ox, and several lost off Twist, and the 
remainder loose, and so I was compelled to have 
the whole of the work done over again at The 

This time the work was well done, all the shoes 
but one staying on for a distance of 600 miles, when 
we threw the Dave ox to replace the lost shoe, there 
being no stocks at hand. The charge at The Dalles 
was $10, thus making quite an inroad upon the scant 
funds for the expedition. I felt compelled to have 
them again shod at Kemmerer, Wyoming, 848 miles 
out from The Dalles, but soon lost several shoes, 
and finally at Pacific Springs had the missing shoes 
replaced by inexperienced hands, who did a good 
job, though, for the shoes stayed on until well worn. 

At 3:30 p. m. on March 14 I drove out from The 
Dalles. I have always felt that here was the real 
starting point, as from here there could be no more 
shipping, but all driving. By rail, it is 1,734 miles 
from The Dalles to Omaha, where our work on the 
old Trail ends. By wagon road the distance is 
"greater, but not much, probably 1,800 miles. The 

— 59 — 

load was heavy as well as the roads. With a team 
untrained to the road, and one ox unbroken, and 
no experienced ox driver, and the grades heavy, 
small wonder if a feeling of depression crept over 
me. On some long hills we could move up but one 
or two lengths of the wagon and team at a time, 
and on level roads, with the least warm sun, the 
unbroken ox would poke out his tongue. He was 
like the young sprig just out of school, with muscles 
soft and breath short. 

A fourteen days' drive to Pendleton, Oregon 138% 
miles, without meeting any success in interesting 
people to help in the work, was not inspiring. On 
this stretch, with two assistants, the Trail was 
marked with boulders and cedar posts at intersec- 
tions with traveled roads, river crossings and noted 
camping places, but no center of population was en- 
countered until I reached the town of Pendleton. 
Here the Commercial Club took hold with a will, 
provided the funds to inscribe a stone monument, 
which was installed, and on the 31st of March dedi- 
cated it with over a thousand people present. Here 
one assistant was discharged, the camera and photo 
supplies stored, a small kodak purchased, and the 
load otherwise lightened by shipping tent, stove, 
stereopticon and other etceteras over the Blue Moun- 
tains to La Grande. 

On that evening I drove out six miles to the 
Indian school in a fierce wind and rain storm that 
set in soon after the dedication ceremonies, on my 
way over the Blue Mountains. 

A night in the wagon without fire in cold weather 
and with scant supper was enough to cool one's ar- 
dor; but zero was reached when the next morning 
information was given out that eighteen inches of 
snow had fallen on the moutnains. However, with 
the morning sun came a warm reception from the 
authorities of the school, a room with a stove in it 
allotted us, and a command to help ourselves to 

— 60 — 

Before this last fall of snow some had said it 
would be impossible for me to cross the Blue Moun- 
tains, a formidable barrier now confronting me, 
while others said it could be done, but that it would 
be a "hard job." So I thought best to go myself, 
investigate on the spot, and "not run my neck into 
a halter" (whatever that may mean) for lack of 
knowing at first hands. So that evening Meacham 
was reached by rail, and I was dumped off in the 
snow near midnight, no visible light in hotel nor 
track beaten to it, and again the ardor was cold — 
cool, cooler, cold. 

Morning confiirmed the story; twenty inches of 
snow had fallen, but was settling fast. A sturdy 
mountaineer, and one of long experience and an ow- 
ner of a team, in response to my query if he could 
help me across with his team said, "Yes, it's possible 
to make it, but I warn you it's a hard job," and so 
the arrangement was at once made that the second 
morning after our meeting his team would leave 
Meacham on the way to meet me. 

"But what about a monument, Mr. Burns?" I said. 
"Meacham is a historic place with Lee's* encamp- 
ment in sight." 

"We have no money," came the quick reply, "but 
plenty of brawn. Send us a stone and I'll warrant 
you the foundation will be built and the monument 
put in place." 

A belated train gave opportunity to return at 
once to Pendleton. An appeal for aid to provide an 
inscribed stone for Meacham was responded to with 
alacrity, the stone ordered, and a sound night's sleep 
followed — ardor rising. 

*Jason Lee, the first missionary to the Oregon coun- 
try with two assistants, camped here in September, 
1834, at, as he supposed, the summit of the Blue 
Mountains, and ever after the little opening in the 
forests of the mountains has been known as Lee's 

— 61 — 

I quote from my journal: "Camp No. 31, April 4 
(1906). We are now on the snow line of the Blue 
Mountains (8:00 p. m.), and 1 am writing this by our 
first real out-of door- campfire, under the spreading 
boughs of a friendly pine tree. We estimate have 
driven twelve miles; started from the school at 
7:00 (a. m.); the first three or four miles over a 
beautiful farming country, and then began climbing 
the foothills, up, up, up, four miles, and soon up 
again, reaching first snow at 3:00 o'clock. The 
long up-hill pull fagged the ox Dave, so we had to 
wait on him, although I had given him an inch the 
advantage on the yoke." 

True to promise, the team met us, but not till 
we had reached the snow, axle deep in places, and 
had the shovel in use to clear the way. But by 3:00 
p. m. we were safely encamped at Meacham, with 
the cheering news that the monument had arrived 
and could be dedicated the next day, and so the 
snowfall had proven a blessing in disguise, as other- 
wise there would not have been a monument pro- 
vided for Meacham. Ardor warming. 

But the summit had not been reached. The worst 
tug lay ahead of us. Casting all thoughts of this 
from mind, all hands turned to the monument, which 
by 11:00 o'clock was in place, the team hitched up, 
standing near it, and ready for the start as soon as 
the order was given. Everybody was out, the little 
school in a body, a neat speech was made by the 
orator from Pendleton, and the two teams to the 
one wagon moved on to the front to battle with the 
snow. And it was a battle. We read of the "last 
straw that broke the camel's back." I said, after 
we had gotten through, "I wonder if another flake 
of snow would have balked us?" But no one an- 
swered, and I took it for granted they didn't know. 
And so we went into camp on the farther side of the 
summit. Ardor warming. 

The sunshine that was let into our hearts at La 
Grande (Oregon) was refreshing. "Yes, we will 
have a monument," the response came, and they did, 

— 62 — 

— 63 — 

too, and dedicated it while I tarried. Ardor normal 

I again quote from my journal: 

"Camp No. 34, April 11. We left La Grande at 
7:30 (a. m.) and brought an inscribed stone with us 
to set up at an intersection near the mouth of 
Ladd's Canyon, eight miles out of La Grande. At 
1 :00 o'clock the school near by came in a body and 
several residents to see and hear. The children sang 
"Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," after which I 
talked to them for a few moments. The exercises 
closed with all singing "America." We photo- 
graphed the scene. Each child brought a stone and 
cast it upon the pile surrounding the base of the 

At this camp, on April 12, the Twist ox kicked me 
and almost totally disabled my right leg for a month, 
and probably has resulted in permanent injury. 
Much had to be left undone that otherwise would 
have been accomplished, but I am rejoiced that it 
was no worse and thankful to the kind friends that 
worked so ardently to accomplish what has been 
done, an account of which follows. 

Baker City, Oregon. 

The citizens of Baker City lent a willing ear to the 
suggestion to erect a monument on the high school 
ground to perpetuate the memory of the old Trail 
and to honor the pioneers who made it, although the 
trail is off to the north six miles. A fine granite 
shaft was provided and dedicated while I tarried 
and an inscribed stone marker set in the Trail. 
Eight hundred school children contributed an ag- 
gregate of $60 to place a children's bronze tablet on 
this shaft. The money for this work was placed in 
the hands of the school directors. Two thousand 
people participated in the ceremony of dedication 
on the 19th, and all were proud of the work. A 
wave of genuine enthusiasm prevailed, and many of 
the audience lingered long after the exercises were 

A photograph of the Old Timer was taken after 
the ceremonies of the dedication, and many a moist- 

— 64 — 

— 65 — 

ened eye attested the interest taken in the impromptu 

Sixteen miles out from Baker City at Straw Ranch, 
set an inscribed stone at an important intersection. 
At Old Mount Pleasant I met the owner of the place 
where I wanted to plant the stone (always, though, 
m the public highway) and asked him to contribute, 
but he refused and treated me with scant courtesy. 
Thirteen young men and one lady, hearing of the 
occurrence, contributed the cost of the stone and 
$6 extra. The tent was filled with people until 9:00 
o'clock at night. The next day while planting the 
stone, five young lads came along, stripped off their 
coats, and labored with earnestness until the work 
was finished. I note these incidents to show the 
interest taken by the people at large, of all classes 

The people of Durkee had "heard what was going 
on down the line," and said they were ready to 
provide the funds for a monument. One was or- 
dered from the granite works at Baker City, and in 
due time was dedicated, but unfortunately I have 
no photograph of it. The stone was planted in the 
old Trail on the principal street of the village. 

Huntington came next in the track where the 
Trail ran, and here a granite monument was erected 
and dedicated while I tarried, for which the citizens 
willingly contributed. Here seventy-six school chil- 
dren contributed their dimes and half-dimes, aggre- 
gating over $4. 

After the experience in Baker City, Oregon, where, 
as already related, 800 children contributed, and at 
Boise, Idaho, to be related later, over a thousand 
laid down their offerings, I am convinced that this 
feature of the work is destined to give great results. 
It is not the financial aid I refer to, but the effect it 
has upon children's minds to set them to thinking 
of this subject of patriotic sentiment that will endure 
in after life. Each child in Baker City, or in Hunt- 
ington, or Boise, or other places where these con- 
tributions have been made, feel they have a part 
ownership in the shaft they helped to pay for, and 

— 66 — 

a tender care for it, that will grow stronger as the 
child grows older. 

It was not a question at Vale, Oregon, as to 
whether they would erect a monument, but as to 
what kind, that is, what kind of stone. Local pride 
prevailed, and a shaft was erected out of local 
material, which was not so suitable as granite, but 
the spirit of the people was manifested. Exactly 
seventy children contributed to the fund for erect- 
ing this monument, (which was placed on the court 
house grounds,) and participated in the exercises of 
dedication on April 30. 


Old Fort Boise. 

Erecting a monument in Vale, as related in the 
last chapter, finished the work in Oregon, as we 
soon crossed Snake river just below the mouth of 
Boise, and were landed on the historic spot of Old 
Fort Boise, established by the Hudson Bay Company 
in September, 1834. This fort was established for 
the purpose of preventing the success of the Amer- 
ican venture at Fort Hall, a post established earlier 
in the year by Nathaniel J. Wyethe. Wyethe's ven- 
ture proved disastrous, and the fort soon passed into 
his rival's hands, the Hudson Bay Company, thus 
for the time being securing undisputed British rule 
for the whole of that vast region later known as the 
Inland Empire, the Oregon Country. 

Some relics of the old fort at Boise were secured, 
arrangements made for planting a double inscribed 
stone to mark the site of the fort and the Trail, and 
afterwards, through the liberality of the citizens of 
Boise City, a stone was ordered and doubtless before 
this put in place. 

The first town encountered in Idaho was Parma, 
where the contributions warranted shipping an in- 
scribed stone from Boise City, which was done, and 
is in place. 

— 68 — 

Boise, Idaho. 

At Boise, the capital city of Idaho, there were 
nearly 1,200 contributions to the monument fund by 
the pupils of the public schols, each child signing his 
3r her name to the roll, showing the school and grade 
to which the child belonged. These rolls with 
printed headlines were collected, bound together, 
and deposited with the archives of the Pioneer So- 
ciety historical collection for future reference and 
as a part of the history of the monument. Each 
child was given a signed certificate showing the 
amount of the contribution. The monument stands 
on the state house grounds and is inscribed as the 
children's offering to the memory of the pioneers. 
Over five thousand people attended the dedication 

The citizens of Boise also paid for the stone 
planted on the site of the old fort and also for one 
planted on the Trail, near the South Boise school 
buildings, all of which were native granite shafts, of 
which there is a large supply in the quarries of 
Tdaho very suitable for such work. 

At Twin Falls, 537 miles out from The Dalles, 
funds were contributed to place an inscribed stone 
in the track of the old trail a mile from the city, 
and a granite shaft was accordingly ordered and put 
in place during my second trip of 1910. 

Pocatello, Idaho. 

The Ladies' Study Club has undertaken the work 
of erecting a monument at Pocatello, Idaho, 676 
miles out from The Dalles. I made twenty-three 
addresses to the school children on behalf of the 
work before leaving, and have the satisfaction of 
knowing the undertaking has been vigorously prose- 
cuted, and that a fine monument has been placed 
on the high school grounds. 

At Soda Springs, 739 miles from The Dalles, the 
next place where an attempt was made to erect 
a monument, a committee of citizens undertook the 
work, collected the funds to erect a monument by 

— 69 — 


one of those beautiful bubbling soda springs, which 
is in the park and on the Trail. 

Montpelier proved no exception to what appar- 
ently had become the rule. A committee of three 
was appointed by the Commercial Club to take 
charge of the work of erecting a monument, a con- 
tribution from members and citizens solicited, nearly 
$30 collected and paid into the bank, and arrange- 
ments made for increasing the contributions and 
completing the monument were made before the 
team arrived. A pleasant feature of the occasion 
was the calling of a meeting of the Woman's Club 
at the Hunter Hotel, where I was stopping, and a 
resolution passed to thoroughly canvass the town 
for aid in the work, and to interest the school 

I quote from my journal: 

"June 7, up at 4.30; started at 5.30; arrived at 
Montpelier 11.00 a. m. * * * A dangerous and 
exciting incident occurred this forenoon when a 
vicious bull attacked the team, first from one side 
and then the other, getting in between the oxen 
and causing them to nearly upset the wagon. I was 
finally thrown down in the melee, but escaped un- 
harmed," and it was a narrow escape from being 
run over both by team and wagon. 

This incident reminded me of a "scrape" one of 
our neighboring trains got into on the Platte in 1852 
with a wounded buffalo. The train had encountered 
a large herd feeding and traveling at right angles 
to the road. The older heads of the party, fearing 
a stampede of their teams, had given orders not 
to molest the buffaloes, but to give their whole 
attention to the care of the teams. But one im- 
pulsive young fellow would not be restrained and 
fired into the herd and wounded a large bull. 
Either in anger or from confusion, the mad bull 
charged upon a wagon filled with women and chil- 
dren and drawn by a team of mules. He became 
entangled in the harness and on the tongue be- 
tween the mules. An eye-witness described the scene 
as "exciting for a while." It would be natural for 

— 71 — 

72 — 

the women to scream, the children to cry, and the 
men to halloa, but the practical question was how 
to dispatch the bull without shooting the mules as 
well. What, with multiplicity of counsel, the inde- 
pendent action of everyone, each having a plan of 
his own, there seemed certain to be some fatalities 
from the gun-shots of the large crowd of trainmen 
who had forgotten their own teams and rushed to 
the wagon in trouble. As in this incident of my 
own, just related, nothing was harmed, but when it 
was over all agreed it was past understanding how 
it came about there was no loss of life or bodily 

Cokeville, 80014 miles out on the Trail from The 
Dalles, and near the junction of the Sublette cut-off 
with the more southerly trail, resolved to have a 
monument, and arrangements were completed for 
erecting one of stone from a nearby quarry that 
will bear witness for many centuries. 

Out on the Trail, in Wyoming — the Rocky 

From Cokeville to Pacific Springs, just west of 
the summit of the Rocky Mountains at South Pass, 
by the road and trail we traveled, is 158 miles. 
Ninety miles of this stretch is away from the sound 
of the locomotive, the click of the telegraph or the 
hello girl. It is a great extension of that grand 
mountain range, the Rockies, from six to seven 
thousand feet above sea level, with scant vege- 
table growth, and almost a solitude as to habita- 
tion, save as here and there a sheep-herder or his 
typical wagon might be discovered. The bold coyote, 
the simple antelope, and the cunning sage hen still 
hold their sway as they did fifty-four years be- 
fore, when I first traversed the country. The Old 
Trail is there in all its grandeur. 

"Why mark that Trail?" I exclaim. Miles and 
miles of it worn so deep that centuries of storm will 
not efface it: generations may pass and the origin 
of the Trail become a legend, but the marks will be 
there to perplex the wondering eyes of those who 


people the continent centuries hence, aye, a hun- 
dred centuries, I am ready to say. We wonder to 
see it worn fifty feet wide and three feet deep, and 
hasten to take snap shots at it with kodak and cam- 
era. But what about it later, after we are over the 
crest of the mountain? We see it a hundred feet 
wide and fifteen feet deep, where the tramp of thou- 
sands upon thousands of men and women, and the 
hoofs of millions of animals and the wheels of un- 
told numbers of vehicles have loosened the soil 
and the fierce winds have carried it away, and finally 
we find ruts a foot deep worn into the solid rock. 

"What a mighty movement, this, over the Old 
Oregon Trail!" we exclaim time and again, each 
time with greater wonderment at the marvels yet 
to be seen, and hear the stories of the few yet left 
of those who suffered on this great highway. 

Nor do we escape from this solitude of the west- 
ern slope till we have traveled 150 miles east from 
the summit, when the welcome black smoke of the 
locomotive is seen in the distance, at Casper, a 
stretch of 250 miles of primitive life of "ye olden 
times'' of fifty years ago. 

Nature's freaks in the Rocky Mountains are be- 
yond my power of description. We catch sight of 
one a few miles west of the Little Sandy without 
name. We venture to call it Tortoise Rock, from 
the resemblance to that reptile, with head erect and 
extended, as seen in the illustration. Farther on, as 
night approaches, we are in the presence of animals 
unused to the sight of man. I quote from my jour- 

Pacific Springs, Wyoming, Camp No. 79, June 
20, 1906, odometer 958 (miles from The Dalles, Ore- 
gon). Arrived at 6.00 p. m., and camped near Hal- 
ter's store and the P. O.; ice formed in camp during 
the night. 

Camp No. 79, June 21. Remained in camp all day 
and got down to solid work on my new book, the 
title of which is not yet developed in my mind. 

Camp No. 79, June 22. Remained in camp all day 
at Pacific Springs and searched for a suitable stone 

— 74— 

for a monument to be placed on the summit. After 
almost despairing, came to exactly what was wanted, 
and, although alone on the mountain side, exclaimed, 
"That is what I want; that's it." So a little later, 
after procuring help, we turned it over to find that 
both sides were flat; with 26 inches face and 15 
inches thick at one end and 14 inches wide and 12 
inches thick at the other, one of Nature's own handi- 
work, as if made for this very purpose, to stand 
on the top of the mountains for the centuries to 
come to perpetuate the memory of the generations 
that have passed. I think it is granite formation, 
but is mixed with quartz at large end and very 
hard. Replaced three shoes on the Twist ox and 
one on Dave immediately after dinner, and hitched 
the oxen to Mr. Halter's wagon, and with the help 
of four men loaded the stone, after having dragged 
it on the ground and rocks a hundred yards or so 
down the mountain side; estimated weight, 1,000 

Camp No. 79, June 23. Remained here in camp 
while inscribing the monument. There being no 
stone cutter here, the clerk of the store formed 
the letters on stiff paste boards and then cut them 
out to make a paper stencil, after which the shape 
of the letters was transformed to the stone by crayon 
marks. The letters were then cut out with the cold 
chisel deep enough to make a permanent inscription. 
The stone is so very hard that it required steady 
work all day to cut the twenty letters and figures, 
•'The Old Oregon Train, 1843-57." 

Camp 80, June 24, odometer 970 1 ,2. At 3.00 o'clock 
this afternoon erected the monument on the sum- 
mit of the South pass at a point on the Trail 
described by John Linn, civil engineer, at 42 21 north 
latitude, 108.53 west longitude, bearing N. 47, E. 240 
feet from the M corner between sections 4 and 5, 
T. 27 N., R 101 \V. of the 6th P. M. Elevation as 
determined by aneroid reading June 24, 1906, is 7450. 

"Mr. Linn informs me the survey for an irriga- 
tion ditch to take the waters of the Sweetwater 
river from the east slope of the range, through the 

-75 — 

South pass, to the west side, runs within a hundred 
feet of the monument. 

We drove out of Pacific Springs at 12.30, stopped 
at the summit to dedicate the monument and at 3:40 
left the summit and drove twelve miles to this point, 
called Oregon Slough, and put up the tent after 

The reader may think of "the South P'^ss of the 
Rocky Mountains as a precipitous defile through 
narrow canyons and deep gorges, but nothing is 
farther from the fact than such imagined conditions. 
One can drive through this pass for several miles 


without realizing he has passed" the dividing line 
between the waters of the Pacific on the one side 
and of the Gulf of Mexico on the other, while trav- 
eling over a broad, open, undulating prairie the ap- 
proach is by easy grades and the descent (going 
west) scarcely noticeable. 

Certainly, if my memory is worth anything, in 
1852, some of our party left the road but a short 
distance to find banks of drifted snow in low places 
in July, but none was in sight on the level of the 
road as we came along in June of 1906. This was 
one of the landmarks that looked familiar, as all 
who were toiling west looked upon this spot as the 
turning point in their journey, and that they had 
left the worst of the trip behind them — poor, inno- 
cent souls as we were, not realizing that our moun- 
tain climbing in the way of rough roads only be- 
gan a long way out weft of the summit of the 


The sight of Sweetwater River, twenty miles out 
from the pass, revived many pleasant memories and 
some that were sad. I couLd remember the spark- 
ling, clear water, the green skirt of undergrowth along 
the banks and the restful camps as we trudged 
along up the streams so many years ago. And 
now I see the same channel, the same hills, and 
apparently the same waters swiftly passing; but 
where are the camp-fires; where the herd of gaunt 
cattle; where the sound of the din of bells; the 
hallowing for lost children; the cursing of irate 
ox drivers; the pleading for mercy from some hu- 
mane dame for the half-famished dumb brute; the 
harsh sounds from some violin in camp; the merry 
shouts of children; or the little groups off on the 
hillside to bury the dead? All gone. An oppressive 
silence prevailed as we drove down to the river and 
pitched our camp within a few feet of the bank 
where we could hear the rippling waters passing 
and see^ the fish leaping in the eddies. We had 
our choice of a camping place just by the skirt of 
refreshing green brush with an opening to give 

-77 — 

full view of the river. Not so in 'S2 with hundreds 
of camps ahead of you. One must take what he 
could get, and that in many cases would be far 
back from the water and removed from other con- 

The sight and smell of the carrion so common 
in camping places in our first trip was gone; no 
bleached bones even showed where the exhausted 
dumb brute had died; the graves of the dead emi- 
grants had all been leveled by the hoofs of stock and 
the lapse of time. "What a mighty change!" I ex- 
claimed. We had been following the old Trail for 
nearly 150 miles on the west slope of the mountains 
with scarce a vestige of civilization. Out of sight 
and hearing of railroads, telegraphs, or telephones 
and nearly a hundred miles without a postoffice. 
It is a misnomer to call it a "slope." It is nearly 
as high an altitude a hundred miles west of the 
summit as the summit itself. The country remains 
as it was sixty years before. The Trail is there 
to be seen miles and miles ahead, worn bare and 
deep, with but one narrow wagon track where there 
used to be a dozen, and with the wide beaten path 
so solid that vegeation has not yet recovered from 
the scourge of passing hoofs and tires of wagons 
years ago. 

As in 1852 when the summit was passed 1 felt 
that my task was much more than half done, though 
the distance was scarcely compassed. I felt we were 
entitled to a rest even though it was a solitude, and 
so our preparations were made for two days' rest 
if not recreation. The two days passed and we 
saw but three persons. We traveled a week on 
this stretch, to encounter five persons only, and to 
see but one wagon, but our guide to point the way 
was at hand all the time— a pioneer way a hundred 
feet wide and in places ten feet deep, we could not 
mistake. Our way from this Camp 81 on Sweet- 
water led us from the river and over hills for 
fifty miles before we were back to the river again. 
Not so my Trail of '52, for then we followed the 
river closer and crossed it several times, while part 

-78 — 

of the people went over the hills and made the 
second trail. It was on this last stretch we tet our 
1,000-mile post as we reached the summit of a very 
long hill, eighteen miles west of where wc again 
encountered the river, saw a telegraph line, and a 
road where more than one wagon a week passed as 
like that we had been following so long. 

Split Rock. 

I quote from my journal: 

Camp No. 85, June 30, odometer 1,044. 

"About ten o'clock encountered a large number 
of big flies that ran the cattle nearly wild. We 
fought them off as best we could. I stood on the 
wagon tongue for miles so I could reach them with 
the whip-stock. The cattle were so excited, we 
did not stop at noon, finding water on the way, but 
drove on through by two-thirty and camped at a 
farmhouse, the Split Rock postoffice, the first wc 
had found since leaving Pacific Springs, the other 
side of the summit of South Pass and eighty-five 
miles distant." 

"Split Rock" postoffice derives its name from a 
rift in the mountain a thousand feet or more high, 
as though a part of the range had been bodily moved 
a rod or so, leaving this perpendicular chasm through 
the range, which was narrow. 

The Devil's Gate. 
The Devil's Gate and Independence Rock, a few 
miles distant, are probably the two best known 
landmarks on the Trail — the one for its grotesque 
and striking scenic effect. Here, as at Split Rock, 
the mountain seems as if it had been split apart, 
leaving an opening a few rods wide, through which 
the Sweetwater River pours a veritable torrent. The 
river first approaches to within a few hundred feet 
of the gap, and then suddenly curves away from it, 
and after winding through the valley for a half mile 
or so, a quarter of a mile distant, it takes a straight 
shoot and makes the plunge through the canyon. 
Those who have had the impression they drove their 

— 79 — 


teams through this gap are mistaken, for it's a feat 
no mortal man has done or can do, any more than 
they could drive up the falls of the Niagara. 

This year, on my 1906 trip, I did clamber through 
on the left bank, over boulders head high, under 
shelving rocks where the sparrows' nests were in 
full possession, and ate some ripe gooseberries from 
the bushes. growing on the border of the river, and 
plucked some beautiful wild roses — this on the sec- 
ond day of July, A. D. 1906. I wonder why those 
wild roses grow there where nobody will see them? 
Why these sparrows' nests? Why did this river 
go through this gorge instead of breaking the bar- 
rier a little to the south where the easy road runs? 
These questions run through my mind, and why 
I know not. The gap through the mountains looked 
familiar as I spied it from the distance, but the 
road-bed to the right I had forgotten. I longed to 
see this place, for here, somewhere under the sands, 
lies all that was mortal of a brother, Clark Meeker, 
drowned in the Sweetwater in 1854 while attemptinp 
to cross the Plains; would I be able to see and 
identify the grave? No. 

I quote from my journal: 

"Camp No. 86, July 2. odometer 1059. This camp 
is at Tom Sun's place, the Sun postoffice, Wyoming, 
and is in Sec. 35, T. 29 N. R. 97. 6 p. m., and it is 
one-half mile to the upper end of the Devil's Gate 
through which the Sweetwater runs. The pas- 
sage is not more than 100 feet wide and is 
1300 feet through, with walls 483 feet at the highest 
point. The altitude is 5860.27, according to the 
United States geological survey marks. Tt is one 
of nature's marvels, this rift in the mountain to let 
the waters of the Sweetwater through. Mr. Tom 
Sun, or Thompson, has lived here thirty odd years 
and says there are numerous graves of the dead 
pioneers, but all have been leveled by the tramp of 
stock, 225,000 head of cattle alone having passed 
over the Trail in 1882 and in some single years 
over a half million sheep. But the Trail is deserted 
now, and scarcely five wagons pass in a week, with 

— 81 — 

part of the roadbed grown up in grass. That might}' 
movement — tide shall we call it — of suffering hu- 
manity first going west, accompanied and afterwards 
followed by hundreds of thousands of stock, witfe 
the mightier ebb of millions upon millions of return- 
ing cattle and sheep going east, has all ceased, and 
now the road is a solitude save a few straggling 
wagons, or here and there a local flock driven to 
pasture. No wonder that we looked in vain for the 
graves of the dead with this great throng passing 
and repassing. 

A pleasant little anecdote is told by his neighbors 
of the odd name of "Tom Sun," borne by that sturdy 
yeoman (a Swede, I think), and of whose fame for 
fair dealing and liberality I could hear upon all sides. 
The story runs that when he first went to the bank, 
then and now sixty miles away, to deposit, the 
cashier asked his name and received the reply 
Thompson, emphasizing the last syllable pronounced 
with so much emphasis, that it was written Tom 
Sun, and from necessity a check had to be so signed, 
thus making that form of spelling generally known, 
and finally it was adopted as the name of the post- 

Independence Rock. 

"Camp No. 87, July 3, 1906, odometer 1065, Inde- 
pendence Rock. We drove over to the 'Rock,' from 
the 'Devil's Gate,' a distance of six miles, and 
camped at 10.00 o'clock for the day. 

Not being conversant with the work done by 
others to perpetuate their names on this famous 
boulder that covers about thirty acres, we groped 
our way among the inscriptions to find some of 
them nearly obliterated and many legible only in 
part, showing how impotent the efforts of indi- 
viduals to perpetuate the memory of their own 
names, and may I add, how foolish it is, in most 
cases, forgetting, as these individuals have, that it 
is actions, not words, even if engraved upon stone, 
that carry one's name down to future generations. 
We walked all the way around the stone, which 

— 82— 

was nearly a mile around, of Irregular shape, and 
over a hundred feet high, the wals being so pre- 
cipitous as to prevent ascending to the top except 
in two vantage points. Unfortunately, we missed 
the Fremont inscription made in 1842. 

Of this inscription Fremont writes in his journal: 
"August 23 (1842), yesterday evening we reached our 
encampment at Rock Independence, where I took some 
astronomical observations. Here, not unmindful of the 
custom of early travelers and explorers In our countij, 
I engraved on this rock of the Far West a symbol ol 
the Christian faith. Among the thickly Inscribed names, 
I made on the hard granite the Impression of a large 
cross, which I covered with a black preparation of India 
rubber, well calculated to resist the Influences of the 
wind and rain. It stands amidst the names of many who 
have long since found their way to the grave, and for 
whom the huge rock Is a giant gravestone. 

"One George Weymouth was sent out to Maine by the 
Earl of Southampton, Lord Arundel and others, and in 
the narrative of their discoveries he says: 'The next day 
we ascended In our pinnace that part of the river which 
lies more to the westward, carrying with us a cross — a 
thing never omitted by any Christian traveler — which we 
erected at the ultimate end of our route.' This was in 
the year 1G05; and in 1842 I obeyed the feeling of early 
travelers, and I left the impression of the cross deeply 
engraved on the vast rock 1,000 miles oeyond the Mis- 
sissippi, to which discoverers have given the national 
name of Rock Independence." 

The reader will note that Fremont writes in 1842 
of the name, "to which discoverers have given the 
national name of Independence Rock," showing that 
the name of the rock long antedated his visit, as he 
had inscribed the cross "amidst the names of many." 

Of recent years the traveled road leads to the left 
of the rock, going eastward, instead of to the right 
and nearer the left bank of the Sweetwater as in 
early years; and so I selected a spot on the west- 
ward sloping face of the stone for the inscription, 
"Old Oregon Trail, 1843-57," near the present trav- 
eled road where people can see it, and inscribed 
it with as deep cut letters as we could make 
with a dulled cold chisel t and painted the 
sunken letters with the best sign writer's paint 
in oil. On this expedition, where possible, I 
have in like manner inscribed a number of boulders, 

— 83 — 

with paint only, which it is to he hoped, before the 
life of the paint has gone out, may find loving hands 
to inscribe deep into the stone; bu* here on this 
huge boulder I hope the inscription may last for 
centuries, though not as deeply cut as I would have 
liked had we but had suitable tools. 

Fish Creek. 

Eleven miles out from Independence Rock we 
nooned on the bank of a small stream, well named 

— 84- 

Fish Creek, for it literally swarmed with fish of 
suitable size for the pan, but they would not bite, 
and we had no appliances for catching with a net, 
and so consoled ourselves with the exclamation they 
were suckers only, and we didn't care, but I came 
away with the feeling that maybe we were "suck- 
ers" ourselves for having wet a blanket in an at- 
tempt to seine them, getting into the water over 
boot top deep, and working all the noon hour in- 
stead of resting like an elderly person should, and 
as the oxen did. 

North Platte River. 

Our next camp brought us to the North Platte 
River, fifteen miles above the town of Casper. 

I quote from my journal: 

"Camp No. 89, North Platte River, July 5, 1906, 
odometer 1104, distance traveled twenty-two miles. 

"We followed the old Trail til nearly 4.00 p. m., 
and then came to the forks of the traveled road, 
with the Trail untraveled by any one going straight 
ahead between the two roads. I took the right hand 
road, fearing the other led off north, and anyway 
the one taken would lead us to the North Platte 
River; and on the old Trail there would be no wa- 
ter, as we were informed, until we reached Casper. 
We did not arrive at the Platte River until after 
dark, and then found there was no feed; got some 
musty alfalfa hay the cattle would not eat; had a 
little cracked corn we had hauled nearly 300 miles 
from Kemmerer, and had fed them the last of it in 
the afternoon; went to bed in the wagon, first water- 
ing the cattle, after dark, from the North Platte, 
which I had not seen for over fifty-four years, as I 
had passed fifteen miles below here the last of June, 

Several times during the afternoon there were 
threatening clouds, accompanied by distant light- 
ning, and at one time a black cloud in the center, 
with rapid moving clouds around it made me think 
of a tornado, but finally disappeared without strik- 
ing us. Heavy wind at night. 


This afternoon as we were driving, with both in 
the wagon, William heard the rattles of a snake, and 
jumped out of the wagon, and thoughtlessly called 
the dog. I stopped the wagon and called the dog 
away from the reptile until it was killed. When 
stretched out it measured four feet eight inches, 
and had eight rattles. 

Casper, Wyoming. 

1 quote from my journal: 

"Camp No. 90, odometer 1117%, Casper, Wyom- 
ing, July 6 (1906). At the noon hour, while eating 
dinner, seven miles out, we heard the whistle of the 
locomotive, something we had not seen nor heard 
for nearly 300 miles. As soon as lunch was over 
1 left the wagon and walked in ahead of the team 
to select camping ground, secure feed, and get the 
mail. Received twenty letters, several from home. 

Fortunately a special meeting of the commercial 
club held this evening, and I laid the matter of 
building a monument before them, with the usual 
result; they resolved to build one; opened the sub- 
scription at once, and appointed a committee to carry 
the work forward. I am assured by several promi- 
nent citizens that a $500 monument will be erected, 
as the city council will join with the club to pro- 
vide for a fountain as well, and place it on the most 
public street crossing of the city. 

As a sequel to this entry in my diary, I have re- 
cently received this self-explanatory letter of a date 
five years later, showing how the seed planted 
finally has borne fruit. This letter also is witness 
to the zeal and helpfulness of the ladies in this work. 
I have before said "God bless the ladies," and I want 
to say it again and bear testimony to the fact, for 
it is a fact that much of the success in securing the 
erection of monuments along the Oregon Trail is 
due to the efforts of the ladies. The letter folows. 

— 86 — 

Casper, Wyo., May 24, 1911. 
Hon. Ezra Meeker, 
Puyallup, Wash. 
My Dear Sir: I take great pleasure in sending 
you a cut of the monument erected on the Oregon 
Trail, by the Pioneers of Natrona County. 

The base consists of concrete 18x18 feet square, 
four steps 12 inches high. 

The obelisk is 24 feet in height, and bears the 

"In memory of the Old Oregon Trail and 
those who blazed the way. Erected by Pio- 
neer Association, Casper, Wyo., 1850-1911." 
The monument is located on railroad ground in a 
place where all comers and goers can not help but 

The Casper people, also all people in Natrona 
County, are very proud of its beauty, and are grate- 
ful to you, the one to whom we are indebted for 
its suggestion. I was president of the association 
during all the arrangements and am proud of the 

Very Respectfully, 

IDA A. HEWES. Postmaster. 


Glen Rock was the next place in our itinerary, 
which we reached at dark, after having driven 
twenty-five and one-fovrth miles. This is the long- 
est drive we have made on the whole trip. 

Glen Rock is a small village, but the ladies met 
and resolved they "would have as nice a monument 
as Casper,"' even if it did not cost as much, be- 
cause there was a stone quarry out but six miles 
from town. One enthusiastic lady said "We will 
inscribe it ourselves, if no stone-cutter can be had." 
'"Where there's a will there's a way,' as the old 
adage runs," I remarked as we left the nice little 
burg and said good-bye to the energetic ladies in 
it. God bless the women, anyhow; I don't see how 
the world could get along without them; and any- 

— 87 — 

how I don't see what life would have been without 
that little faithful companion that came over this 
very same ground with me fifty-four years ago and 
still lives to rejoice for the many, many blessings 
vouchsafed to us and our descendants. 

Douglas, Wyoming. 

At Douglas, Wyoming, 1177% miles out from The 
Dalles, the people at first seemed reluctant to as- 
sume the responsibility of erecting a monument, 
everybody being "too busy" to give up any time to 
it, but were willing to contribute. After a short 
canvass. $52 was contributed, a local committee ap- 
pointed, and an organized effort to erect a monu- 
ment was well in hand before we drove out of the 

I here witnessed one of those heavy downpours 
like some I remember in '52, where, as in this case, 
the water came down in veritable sheets, and in an 
incredibly short time turned all the slopes into roar- 
ing torrents and level places into lakes; the water 
ran six inches deep in the streets in this case, on 
a very heavy grade the whole width of the street. 

I quote from my journal: 

"Camp No. 95, July 12, odometer 1,192. We are 
camped under a group of balm trees in the Platte 
bottom near the bridge at the farm of a company, 
Dr. J. M. Wilson in charge, where we found a 
good vegetable garden and were bidden to help our- 
selves, which I did, with a liberal hand, to a feast 
of young onions, radishes, beets and lettuce enough 
for several days." 

This refreshing shade and these spreading balms 
carried me back to the little cabin home in the Puy- 
allup valley, 1,500 miles away, where we had for so 
long a period "enjoyed the cool shades of the native 
forests, enlivened by the charms of songsters at 
peep of day, with the dripping dew off the leaves 
like as if a shower had fallen over the forest. Hav- 
ing now passed the 1,200-mile mark out from The 

— 88- 

Dalles, with scarcely the vestige of timber life ex- 
cept in the snows of the Blue mountains, one can 
not wonder that my mind should run back to not 
only the little cabin home as well as to the more 
pretentious residence near by; to the time when our 
homestead of 160 acres, granted us by the govern- 
ment was a dense forest — when the little clearing 
was so isolated we could see naught else but walls 
of timber around us — timber that required the laboi 
of one man twelve years to remove from a quarter 
section of land — of the time when trails only reached 
the spot — when, as the poet wrote: 
"Oxen answered well for team, 
Though now they'd be too slow; — " 
when the semi-monthly mail was eagerly looked for; 
when the Tribune would be re-read again and again 
before the new supply came; when the morning 
hours before breakfast were our only school hours 
for the children; when the home-made shoe pegs 
and the home-shaped shoe lasts answered for mak- 
ing and mending the shoes, and the home-saved 
bristle for the waxed end — when the Indians, if not 
our nearest neighbors, I had liked to have said 
our best; when the meat in the barrel and the 
flour in the box, in spite of the most strenuous 
efforts, would at times run low; when the time for 
labor would be much nearer eighteen than eight 
hours a day. 

"SUPPER.'' Supper is ready; and when re- 
peated in more imperative tones, I at last awake to 
inhale the fragrant flavors of that most delicious 
beverage, camp coffee, from the Mocha and Java 
mixed grain that had "just come to a boil," and to 
realize there was something else in the air when 
the bill of fare was scanned. 

— 89 — 


Calf's liver, with bacon, fried crisp. 

Coffee, with cream, and a lump of butter added. 

Lettuce, with vinegar and sugar. 

Young onions. 

Boiled young carrots. 


Beets, covered with vinegar. 

Cornmeal mush, cooked forty minutes, in reserve and 

for a breakfast fry. 

These "delicacies of the season," coupled with 
the — what shall I call it? — delicious appetite incident 
to a strenuous day's travel and a late supper hour, 
without a dinner padding in the stomach, aroused 
me to a sense of the necessities of the inner man, 
and to that keen relish incident to prolonged ex- 
ertion and an open-air life, and justice was meted 
out to the second meal of the day following a 5.00 
o'clock breakfast. 

I awoke also to the fact that I was on the spot 
near where I camped fifty-four years ago in this 
same Platte valley, then apparently almost a desert. 
Now what do I see? As we drew into camp, two 
mowing machines cutting the alfalfa; two or more 
teams raking the cured hay to the rick, and a huge 
fork or rake at intervals climbing the steep incline 
of fenders to above the top of the rick, and de- 
positing its equivalent to a wagon-load at a time. 
To my right, as we drove through the gate the 
large garden looked temptingly near, as did some 
rows of small fruit . Hay ricks dotted the field, 
and outhouses, barns and dwelings at the home. 
We are in the midst of plenty and the guests, we 
may almost say, of friends, instead of feeling we 
must deposit the trusted rifle in convenient place 
while we eat. Yes, we will exclaim again, "What 
wondrous changes time has wrought!" 

But my mind will go back to the little ivy-covered 
cabin now so carefully preserved in Pioneer Park 
in the little pretentious city of Puyallup, that was 
once our homestead, and so long our home, and 

— 90 — 

where the residence still stands near by. The 
timber is all gone and in its place brick blocks 
and pleasant, modest homes are found, where the 
roots and stumps once occupied the ground now 
smiling fruit gardens adorn the landscape and 
fill the purses of 400 fruit growers, and supply 
the wants of 6,000 people. Instead of the slow trudg- 
ing ox team, driven to the market town sixteen 
miles distant, with a day in camp on the way, I see 
fifty-four railroad trains a day thundering through 
the town. I see electric lines with crowded cars 
carrying passengers to tide water and to the rising 
city of Tacoma, but seven miles distant. I see a 
quarter of a million people within a radius of thirty 
miles, where solitude reigned supreme fifty-four years 
ago. save the song of the Indian, the thump of his 
canoe paddle, or the din of his gambling revels. 
When I go down to the Sound I see a mile of ship- 
ping docks where before the waters rippled over a 
pebbly beach filled with shell-fish. I look farther 
and see hundreds of steamers plying thither and 
yon on the great inland sea, where fifty-four years 
ago the Indian's canoe only noiselessly skimmed the 
water. I sec hundreds of sail vessels that whiten 
every sea of the globe, being either towed here and 
there or at dock, receiving or discharging cargo, 
where before scarce a dozen had in a year ventured 
the voyage. At the docks in Seattle I see the 28,000- 
ton steamers receiving their monstef cargoes for 
the Orient, and am reminded that these monsters 
can enter any of the numerous harbors of Puget 
Sound and arc supplemented by a great array of 
other steam tonnage contending for that vast across- 
sea trade, and again exclaim with greater wonderment 
than ever, "What wondrous changes time has 
wrought!" If I look through the channels of Puget 
Sound, I yet see the forty islands or more; its six- 
teen hundred miles of shore line; its schools of fish, 
and at intervals the seal; its myriads of sea gulls; 
the hawking crow; the clam beds; the ebb and flow 
of the tide — still there. But many happy homes dot 
the shore line where the dense forests stood; the 

— 91 — 

wild fruits have given way to the cultivated; train- 
loads of fruit go out to distant markets; and what 
we once looked upon as barren land now gives plen- 
teous crops; and we again exclaim "What wondrous 
changes time has wrought;" or shall we not say, 
"What wondrous changes the hand of man has 
wrought 1" 

But I am admonished I have wandered and musr 
needs go back to our narrative. 

Fort Laramie, Wyoming. 

I quote from my journal: 

"Camp No. 99, July 16, Fort Laramie, odometer 
1,247. From the time we crossed the Missouri in 
May, 1852, until we arrived opposite this place on 
the north bank of the Platte, no place or name was 
so universally in the minds of the emigrants as old 
Fort Laramie; here, we eagerly looked for letters 
that never came — maybe our friends and relatives 
had not written; maybe they had and the letter lost 
or dumped somewhere in "The States;" but now all 
hope vanished, regarding the prospect of hearing 
from home and we must patiently wait until the long 
journey has ended and a missive might reach us by 
the Isthmus or maybe by a sail vessel around Cape 
Horn. Now, as I write, I know my letter written 
in the morning will at night be on the banks of the 
great river, and so for each day of the year. One 
never ceases to exclaim, "What changes time has 
wrought!'' What wondrous changes in these fifty- 
four years, since I first set foot on the banks of the 
Platte and looked longingly across the river for the 
letter that never came. 

This morning at 4.30 the alarm sounded, but in 
spite of our strenuous efforts the start was delayed 
till 6.15. Conditions were such as to give us a hot 
day, but the cattle would not travel without eating 
the grass in the road, having for some cause not 
liked the grass they were on during the night; and 
so, after driving a couple of miles and finding splen- 
did feed, we turned them out to fill up, which they 
speedily did, and thereafter became laggards, too 

— 92 — 

lazy for anything. So after all we did not arrive here 
till 4 00, and with dinner at six, it is not strange thai 
we. had good appetites. 

Localy, it is difficult to get accurate information. 
All agree there is no vestige of the old Traders' 
Camp or the first United States Fort left, but disa- 
gree as to its location. The new fort (not a fort, but 
an encampment), covers a space of thirty or forty 
acres with all sorts of buildings and ruins, from the 
old barracks, three hundred feet long, in good pres- 
ervation and occupied by the present owner, Joseph 
Wild, as a store, postoffice, saloon, hotel and family 
residence, to the old guard house with its grim iron 
door and twenty-inch concrete walls. One frame 
building, two stories, we are told, was transported 
by ox team from Kansas City at a cost of $100 per 
ton freight. There seems to be no plan either in 
the arrangement of the buildings or of the buildings 
themselves. I noticed one building, part stone, part 
concrete, part adobe, and part burnt brick. The 
concrete walls of one building measured twenty-two 
inches thick and there is evidence of the use of lime 
with a lavish hand, and I think all of them are 
alike massive. 

The location of the barracks is in Sec. 28, T. 26 
X.. R 64 \Y. of 6th P. M., United States survey." 

Out on th<; Trail— Nebraska— Scott's Bluff. 

July 20th, odometer 1,30S T 4 miles. We drove out 
from the town of Scott's Bluff to the left bank of 
the North Platte, less than a mile from the town, 
to a point nearly opposite that noted landmark. 
Scott's Bluff, on the right bank, looming up near 
eight hundred feet above the river and adjoining 
green fields, and photographed the bluffs and section 
of the river. 

Probably all emigrants of early days remember 
Scott's Bluff, which could be seen for so long a dis- 
tance, and yet apparently so near for days and days, 
till it finally sank out of sight as we passed on, and 
new objects came into view. As with Tortoise Rock 
the formation is sand and clay cemented, yet soft 

— 93 — 

enough to cut easily, and is constantly changing in 
smaller details. 

We certainly saw Scott's Bluff while near the 
junction of the two rivers, near a hundred miles 
distant, in that illusive phenomenon, the mirage, as 
plainly as when within a few miles of it. 

Speaking of this deceptive manifestation of one 
natural law, I am ied to wonder why, on the trip 
of 1906, I have seen nothing of those sheets of water 
so real as to be almost within our grasp yet never 
reached, those hills and valleys we never traversed, 
beautiful pictures on the horizon and sometimes 
above, while traversing the valley in 1852 — all gone, 
perhaps to be seen no more, as climatic changes 
come to destroy the conditions that caused them. 
Perhaps this may in part be caused by the added 
humidity of the atmosphere, or it may be also in 
part because of the numerous groves of timber 
that now adorn the landscape. Whatever the cause, 
the fact remains that in the year 1852 the mirage was 
of common occurrence and now, if seen at all, is 

The origin of the name of Scott's Bluff is not 
definitely known, but as tradition runs "'a trader 
named Scott, while returning to the States, was 
robbed and stripped by the. Indians. He crawled to 
these bluffs and there famished and his bones were 
afterwards found and buried," these quoted words 
having been written by a passing emigrant on the 
spot, June 11, 1852. 

Another version of his fate is that Scott fell sick 
and was abandoned by his traveling companions, and 
after having crawled near forty miles finally died 
near the "Bluffs," ever after bearing his name. This 
occurred prior to 1830. 

The Dead of the Plains. 

From the "Bluffs" we drove as direct as possible 
to that historic grave, two miles out from the town 
and on the railroad right of way, of Mrs. Rebecca 
Winters, who died August 15, 1852, nearly six weeks 
after I had passed over the ground. 

— 95 — 

But for the handiwork of some unknown friend or 
relative this grave, like thousands and thousands of 
others who fell by the wayside in those strenuous 
days, would have passed out of sight and mind and 
nestled in solitude and unknown for all ages to 

As far back as the memory of the oldest inhabi- 
tant runs, a half sunken wagon tire bore this sim- 
ple inscription, "Rebecca Winters, aged SO years." 
The hoofs of stock trampled the sunken grave and 
trod it into dust, but the arch of the tire remained 
to defy the strength of thoughtless hands who would 
have removed it, and of the ravages of time that 
seem not to have affected it. Finally, in "the lapse 
of time' - that usual non-respecter of persons — the 
railroad surveyor — and afterwards the rails came 
along and would have run the track over the lonely 
grave but for the tender care of the man who wielded 
the compass and changed the line, that the resting 
place of the pioneer should not be disturbed, fol- 
lowed by the noble impulse of him who held the 
power to control the "souless corporation," and the 
grave was protected and enclosed. Then came the 
press correspondent and the press to herald to the 
world the pathos of the lone grave, to in time reach 
the eyes and touch the hearts of the descendants 
of the dead, who had almost passed out of mind and 
to quicken the interest in the memory of one once 
dear to them, till in time there arose a beautiful 
monument lovingly inscribed, just one hundred years 
after the birth of the inmate of the grave. 

As I looked upon this grave, now surrounded by 
green fields and happy homes, my mind ran back to 
the time it was first occupied in the desert (as all 
believed the country through which we were passing 
to be), and the awful calamity that overtook so many 
to carry them to their untimely and unknown graves. 

The ravages of cholera carried off thousands. One 
family of seven a little further down the Platte, lie 
all in one grave; forty-one persons of one train dead 
in one day and two nights tells but part of the 
dreadful story. The count of fifty-three freshly 

— 96 — 



— 97 — 

made graves in one camp ground left a vivid impress 
upon my mind that has never been effaced, as like- 
wise that of meeting nine returning teams driven 
by the women and children, the men all dead. But 
where now are those graves? They are irrevocably 
lost. 1 can recall to mind one point where seventy 
were buried in one little group not one of the graves 
now to be seen — trampled out of sight by the hoofs 
of the millions of stock later passing over the Trail. 

Bearing this in mind, how precious this thought 
that even one grave lias been rescued from oblivion, 
and how precious will become the memory of the 
deeds of those who have so freely dedicated their 
part to recall the events of the past and to honor 
those sturdy pioneers who survived those trying 
experiences as well as the dead, by erecting those 
monuments that now line the Trail for nearly two 
thousand miles. To these, one and all, I bow my 
head in grateful appreciation of their aid in this 
work to perpetuate the memory of the pioneers, 
and especialy the 5,000 school children who have 
each contributed their mite that the memory of the 
dead pioneers might remain fresh in their minds 
and the minds of generations to follow. 

A drive of seventeen miles brought us to the 
rown of Bayard, 1.338 miles on the way from The 
Dales, Oregon, where our continuous drive began. 

Chimney Rock. 

Chimney Rock is six miles southwesterly in full 
view, a curious freak of nature we all remembered 
while passing in '52. 

The base reminds one of an umbrella standing on 
the ground, covering perhaps twelve acres and run- 
ning, cone-shaped, 200 feet to the base of the spire 
resting upon it. The spire (chimney) points to the 
heavens, which would entitle the pile to a more ap- 
propriate name, as like a church spire, tall and slim, 
the wonder of all — how it comes that the hand of 
time has not leveled it long ago and mingled its 
crumbling substance with that lying at its base. The 
whole pile, like that at Scott's Bluff and Court House 

— 98 — 

Rock further down, is a sort of soft sandstone, or 
cement and clay, gradualy crumbling away and des- 
tined to be leveled to the earth in centuries to come. 

A local story runs that an army officer trained 
artillery on this spire, shot off about thirty feet from 
the top, and was afterwards court-martialed and dis- 
charged in disgrace from the army; but I could get 
no definite information, though the story was re- 
peated again and again. It would seem incredible 
that an intelligent man, such as an army officer, 
would do such an act, and if he did he deserved 
severe condemnation and punishment. 

I noticed that at Soda Springs the hand of the 
vandal had been at work, and that interesting phe- 
nomenon, the Steamboat Spring, the wonderment of 
all in 1852, with its intermittent spouting, had been 
tampered with and ceased to act. Tt would seem 
the degenerates are not all dead yet. 

North Platte, Nebraska. 

At North Platte the ladies of the W. C. T. U. ap- 
pointed a committee to undertake to erect a monu- 
ment, the business men all refusing to give up any 
time. However, W. C. Ritner, a respected citizen 
of North Platte, offered to donate a handsome monu- 
ment with a cement base, marble cap, stone and ce- 
ment column, five and a half feet high, which will 
be accepted by the ladies and erected in a suitable 

Obituary Notice. 

Death of Twist. 
"Old Oregon Trail Monument Expedition, Brady 
Island, Neb., August 9. 1906, Camp No. 120, odo- 
meter 1,536^. Yesterday morning Twist ate his 
grain as usual and showed no signs of sickness until 
we were on the road two or three miles, when he 
began to put his tongue out and his breathing be- 
came heavy. But he leaned on the yoke heavier 
than usual and seemed determined to pull the whole 
load. I finally stopped, put him on the off side, 
gave him the long end of the yoke and tied his 

— 99 — 

head back with the halter strap to the chain, but 
to no purpose, for he pulled by the head very heavy. 
I finally unyoked, gave him a quart of lard, a gill 
of vinegar and a handful of sugar, but all to no 
purpose, for he soon fell down and in two hours 
was dead.'' 

Such :s the record in my journal telling of the 
death of this noble animal, which I think died from 
eating some poisonous plant. 

"AVhen we started from Camp Xo. 1, January 
29, Puyallup, Washington, Twist weighed 1,470 
pounds. After we crossed two ranges of mountains; 
had wallowed in the snows of the Blue Mountains; 
followed the tortuous rocky canyons of Burnt river; 
up the deep sand of the Snake, this ox had gained in 
ivevjht 157 pounds, .and weighed 1.607 pounds while 

— 100 — 

laboring under the short end of the yoke that gave 
him fifty-five per cent of the draft and an an in- 
creased burden he would assume by keeping his 
end of the yoke a little ahead, no matter how much 
the mate might be urged to keep up. 

There are striking individualities in animals as 
well as in men, and I had liked to have said vir- 
tues as well; and why not? If an animal always 
does his duty, is faithful to your interest, indus- 
trious — why not recognize it, even if he was 'nothing 
but an ox?' 

We are wont to extol the virtue of the dead, and 
to forget their shortcomings, but here, a plain state- 
ment of facts will suffice to revive the memories of 
the almost forgotten past of an animal so dear to 
the pioneers who struggled across plains and over 
mountains in the long ago. 

To understand the achievements of this ox it is 
necessary to state the burden he carried. The wagon 
weighed 1,430 pounds, is a wooden axle and wide 
track and had an average load of 800 pounds. He 
had, with an unbroken four-year-old steer — a nat- 
ural-born shirk — with the short end of the yoke be- 
fore mentioned, hauled this wagon 1,776 miles and 
was in better working trim when he died than 
when the trip began. And yet, am I sure that at 
some points I did not abuse him? What about com- 
ing up out of Little Canyon or rather up the steep 
rocky steps of stones like veritable stairs, when I 
used the goad, and he pulled a shoe off and his feet 
from under him? Was I merciful then, or did I ex- 
act more than I ought? I can see him yet in my 
mind, while on his knees holding the wagon from 
rolling back into the canyon till the wheel could 
be blocked and the brakes set. Then when bid to 
start the load, he did not flinch. He was the best 
ox I ever saw, without exception, and his loss has 
nearly broken up the expedition, and it is one case 
where his like can not be obtained. He has had a 
decent burial, and a head-board will mark his grave 
and recite his achievements in the valuable aid ren- 
dered in this expedition to perpetuate the memory 

— 101 — 

of the Old Oregon Trail and for which he has given 
up his life." 

What shall I do? Abandon the work? No. But 
I can not go on with one ox, and can not remain 
here. And so a horse team was hired to take us to 
the next town, Gothenburg — thirteen miles distant— 
and the lone ox led behind the wagon. 

"Gothenburg, Nebraska, August 10, 1906, Camp 
No. 121, odometer 1,549. The people here resolved 
to erect a monument, appointed a committee, and a 
contribution of some fifteen dollars was secured. 


Again hired a horse team to haul the wagon to 
Lexington. At Lexington I thought the loss of the 
ox could be repaired by buying a pair of heavy 
cows and breaking them in to work, and so pur- 
chased two out of a band of 200 cattle nearby. 'Why, 
yes, of course they will work,' I said, when a by- 
stander had asked the question. 'Why, I have seen 
whole teams of cows on the Plains in '52, and they 
would trip along so merrily one would be tempted 
to turn the oxen out and get cows. Yes, we will 
soon have a team,' I said, 'only we can't go very 
far in a day with a raw team, especially in this hot 
weather.' But one of the cows wouldn't go at all; 
we could not lead or drive her. Put her in the 
yoke and she would stand stock still just like a 
stubborn mule. Hitch the yoke by a strong rope 
behind the wagon with a hofse team to pull, she 
would brace her feet and actually slide along, but 
wouldn't lift a foot. I never saw such a brute be- 
fore, and hope I never will again. I have broken 
wild, fighting, kicking steers to the yoke and en- 
joyed the sport, but from a sullen tame cow deliver 

"Won't you take her back and give me another?" 
I asked. "Yes, I will give you that red cow (one I 
had rejected as unfit), but not one of the others." 
"Then what is this cow worth to you?" Back came 
the response, "Thirty dollars," and so I dropped ten 
dollars (having paid him forty), lost the better part 

— 102 — 

of a day, experienced a good deal of vexation. "Oh, 
if I could only have Twist back again." 

The fact gradually dawned upon me that the loss 
of that fine ox was almost irreparable. I could not 
get track of an ox anywhere nor of even a steer 
large enough to mate the Dave ox. Besides, Dave 
always was a fool. I could scarcely teach him any- 
thing. He did learn to haw, by the word when on 
the off-side, but wouldn't mind the word a bit if on 
the near-side. Then he would hold his head way 
up while in the yoke as if he disdained to work, and 
poke his tongue out at the least bit of warm weather 
or serious work. Then he didn't have the stamina 
of Twist. Although given the long end of the yoke, 
so that Twist would pull fifty-five per cent of the 
load, Dave would always lag behind. Here was a 
case where the individuality of the ox was as marked 
as ever between man and man. Twist would watch 
my every motion and mind by the wave of the hand, 
but Dave never minded anything except to shirk 
hard work, while Twist always seemed to love his 
work and would go freely all day. And so it was 
brought home to me more forcibly than ever that in 
the loss of the Twist ox I had almost lost the 
whole team. 

Now, if this had occurred in 1852, the loss could 
have been easily remedied, where there were so 
many "broke" cattle, and where there were always 
several yoke to the wagon. So when I drove out 
with a hired horse team that day with the Dave ox 
tagging on behind and sometimes pulling on his 
halter, and an unbroken cow, it may easily be 
guessed the pride of anticipated success went out, 
and a feeling akin to despair seized upon me. Here 
I had two yokes, one a heavy ox yoke and the other 
a light cow's yoke, but the cow, I thought, could 
not be worked alongside the ox in the ox yoke, nor 
the ox with the cow in the cow yoke, and so there 
I was without a team but with a double encum- 

Yes, the ox has passed — has had his day, for in 
all this state I have been unable to find even one 

— 103 — 

yoke. So I trudged along, sometimes behind the led 
cattle, wondering in my mind whether or no I had 
been foolish to undertake this expedition to perpetu- 
ate the memory of the Old Oregon Trail. Had I 
not been rebuffed by a number of business men who 
pushed the subject aside with, "I have no time to 
look into it?" Hadn't I been compelled to pass 
several towns where even three persons could not 
be found to act on the committee? And then there 
was the experience of the constant suspicion and 
watch to see if some graft could not be discovered — 
some lurking speculation. All this could be borne in 
patience, but when coupled with it came the virtual 
loss of the team, is it strange that my spirits went 
down below a normal condition? 

But then came the compensatory thought as to 
what had been accomplished; how three states had 
responded cordialy, and a fourth as well, considering 
the sparse population. How could I account for 
the difference in the reception? It was the press. 
In the first place, the newspapers took up the work 
in advance of my coming, while in the latter case 
the notices and commendation followed my pres- 
ence in a town. And so I queried in my mind as we 
trudged along — after all, I am sowing the seed that 
will bring the harvest later. Then my mind would 
run back along the line of over 1,500 miles, where 
stand twenty-nine sentinels, mostly granite, to pro- 
claim for the centuries to come that the hand of 
communities had been at work and planted these 
shafts that the memory of the dead pioneers might 
live; where a dozen boulders, including the great In- 
dependence Rock, also bear this testimony, and where 
a hundred wooden posts mark the Trail, when stone 
was unobtainable. I recalled the cordial reception 
in so many places; the outpouring of contributions 
from 5,000 school children; the liberal hand of the 
people that built these monuments; the more than 
20,000 people attending the dedication ceremonies. 
And while I trudged along and thought of the en- 
couragement that I had received, I forgot all about 
the loss of Twist, the recalcitrant cow, the dilemma 

— 104 — 

that confronted me, only to awaken from my reverie 
in a more cheerful mood. "Do the best you can," I 
said almost in an audible tone, "and be not cast 
down" and my spirits rose almost to the point of 

Kearney, Nebraska. 

At that beautiful city of Kearney we were ac- 
corded a fine camping place in the center of the 
town under the spreading boughs of the shade trees 
that line the streets, and a nice green, fresh-cut 
sward upon which to pitch our tents. The people 
came in great numbers to visit the camp and ex- 
press their approval as to the object of the trip. I 
said, "Here, we will surely get a splendid monu- 
ment," but when I came to consult with the busi- 
ness men, not one could be found to give up any 
time to the work, though many seemed interested. 
The president of the commercial club even refused 
to call a meeting of the club to consider the subject, 
because he said he had no time to attend the meet- 
ing and thought most of the members would be the 
same. I did not take it this man was opposed to 
the proposed work, but honestly felt there were 
more important matters pressing upon the time of 
business men, and said the subject could be taken 
up at their regular meeting in the near future. As 
I left this man's office, who, I doubted not, had 
spoken the truth, I wondered to myself if these busy 
men would ever find time to die. How did they 
find time to eat? or to sleep? and I queried, Is a 
business man's life worth the living, if all his wake- 
ful moments are absorbed in grasping for gains? 
But I am admonished that this query must be an- 
swered each for himself, and I reluctantly came away 
from Kearney without accomplishing the object of 
my visit, and wondering whether my mission was 
ended and results finished. 

The reader will readily see that I would be the 
more willing listener to such an inner suggestion, 
in view of my crippled condition to carry on the 
work. And might not that condition have a bearing 
to bring about such results? No. For the people 

— 105 — 

seemed to be greatly interested and sympathetic. 
The press was particularly kind in their notices, 
commending the work, but it takes time to arouse 
the business men to action, as one remarked to me, 
"You can't hurry us to do anything; we are not that 
kind of a set." This was said in a tone bordering 
on the offensive, though perhaps expressing only a 

And now again the ladies have come to the rescue. 
Four years later the "Fort Kearney Chapter of the 
D. A. R. dedicated a beautiful monument — a monu- 
ment to their zeal and love for a noble work. I say 
again: God bless the ladies. 

Grand Island, Nebraska. 

I did not, however, feel willing to give up the 
work after having accomplished so much on the 
1,700 miles traveled, and with less than 200 miles 
ahead of me, and so I said, "I will try again at 
Grand Island," the next place where there was a 
center of population, that an effort would probably 
succeed. Here I found there was a decided public 
sentiment in favor of taking action, but at a later 
date — next year — jointly to honor the local pioneers 
upon the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the 
settlement around and about the city; and so, this 
dividing the attention of the people, it was not 
thought best to undertake the work now, and again 
I bordered on the slough of despondency. 

I could not repeat the famous words, I would 
"fight it out on this line if it takes all summer," for 
here it is the 30th of August, and in one day more 
summer will be gone. Neither could I see how to 
accomplish more than prepare the way, and that 
now the press is doing, and sowing seed upon 
kindly ground that will in the future bring forth 
abundant harvest. 

Gradually the fact became uppermost in my mind 
that I was powerless to move; that my team was 
gone. No response came to the extensive advertise- 
ments for an ox or a yoke of oxen, showing clearly 
there were none in the country, and that the only 
way to repair the damage was to get unbroken steers 

-107 — 

Or cows and break them in. This could not be done 
in hot weather or at least cattle unused to work 
could not go under the yoke and render effective 
service while seasoning, and so, for the time being, 
the work on the Trail was suspended. 

As I write in this beautiful grove of the "old 
court house grounds," in the heart of this embryo 
city of Grand Island with its stately rows of shade 
trees, its modest, elegant homes, the bustle and stir 
on its business streets with the constant passing of 
trains, shrieking of whistles, ringing of bells the 
reminder of a great change in conditions, my mind 
reverts back to that June day of 1852 when I passed 
over the ground near where the city stands. Vast 
herds of buffalo then grazed on the hills or leisurely 
crossed our track and at times obstructed our way. 
Flocks of antelope frisked on the outskirts or 
watched from vantage points. The prairie dogs 
reared their heads in comical attitude, burrowing, 
it was said, with the rattlesnake, the badger and 
the owl. 

But now these dog colonies are gone; the buffalo 
has gone; the antelope has disappeared; as likewise 
the Indian. Now all is changed. Instead of the 
parched plain we saw in 1852 with its fierce clouds 
of dust rolling up the valey and engulfing whole 
trains until not a vestige of them could be seen, we 
see the landscape of smiling, fruitful fields, of con- 
tented homes, of inviting clumps of trees dotting 
the landscape. The hand of man has changed what 
we looked upon as a barren plain to that of a fruit- 
ful land. Where, then, there were only stretches 
of buffalo grass now waving fields of grain and great 
fields of corn send forth abundant harvests. Yes, 
we may again exclaim, "What wondrous changes 
time has wrought." 

At Grand Island I shipped to Fremont, Neb., to 
head the procession celebrating the semi-centennial 
of founding that city, working the ox and cow to- 
gether; thence to Lincoln, where the first edition of 
this volume was printed, all the while searching for 
an ox or a steer large enough to mate the Dave ox, 

— 108 — 

but without avail. Finally, after looking over a 
thousand head of eattle in the stockyards of Omaha, 
a five-year-old steer was found and broken in on the 
way to Indianapolis, where I arrived January 5, 1907, 
eleven months and seven days from date of departure 
from my home at Puyallup, 2,600 miles distant. 


— 109 — 

From Indianapolis te Washifigfcea, 

Upon my arrival in Indianapolis, people began to 
ask me about the Trail, and to say they had never 
heard that the Oregon Trail ran through that city, 
to which I replied I never had ever heard that it did. 
A quizzical look sometimes would bring out an ex- 
planation that the intent of the expedition was as 
much to work upon the hearts of the people as to 
work upon the Trail itself; that what we wanted, 
was to fire the imagination of the people and get 
them first to know there was such a thing as the 
Oregon Trail and then to know what it meant in 

After passing the Missouri, and leaving the Trail 
behind me 1 somehow had a foreboding that I 
might be mistaken for a faker and looked upon 
either as an adventurer or a sort of a "wandering 
Jew" and shrank from the ordeal. My hair had 
grown long on the trip across; my boots were some 
the worse for wear and my old-fashioned suit (un- 
derstood well enough by pioneers along the Trail) 
that showed dilapidation all combined, made me 
not the most presentable in every sort of company. 
Coupled with that had I not already been com- 
pelled to say that I was not a "corn doctor" or any 
kind of a doctor; that I did not have patent medi- 
cine or any other sort of medicine to sell, and that 
I was neither soliciting or receiving contributions 
to support the expedition. I had early in the trip 
realized the importance of disarming criticism or 
suspicion that there was graft or speculation in the 
work. And yet, day after day, there would come 
questions pointed or otherwise evidently to probe 
to the bottom to find out if there was lurking some- 
where or somehow an ulterior object not appearing 
on the surface. There being none, the doubters 
would be disarmed only to make way for a new 
crop, maybe the very next hour. 

But the press, with but one exception had been 
exceedingly kind, and understood the work. It re- 

— 110 — 

mained for one man* of the thousand or more who 
wrote of the work, at a later date to write of his 
"suspicions." I wrote that gentleman that "sus- 
picions as to one's motives were of the same cloth 
as the "breath of scandal" against a fair lady's char- 
acter, leaving the victim helpless without amend 
honorable from the party himself, and gave him 
full information, but he did not respond nor so far 
as I know publish any explanation of the article in 
his paper. 

March 1st, 1907, found me on the road going east- 
ward from Indianapolis. I had made up my mind 
that Washington City should be the objective point, 
and that Congress would be a better field to work 
in than out on the hopelessly wide stretcli of the 
Trail where one man's span of life would certainly 
run before the work could be accomplished. 

But, before reaching Congress, it was well to 
spend a season or campaign of education or man- 
age somehow to get the work before the general 
public so that the Congress might know about it, or 
at least that many members might have heard about 
it. So a route was laid out to occupy the time un- 
til the first of December, just before Congress would 
again assemble and be with them "in the beginning." 
The route lay from Indianapolis, through Hamilton, 
Ohio, Dayton, Columbus, Buffalo, then Syracuse, 
Albany, New York City, Trenton. N. J., Philadel- 
phia, Pa., Baltimore, Md., thence to Washington, 
visiting intermediate points along the route out- 
lined. This would seem to be quite a formidable 
undertaking with one yoke of oxen and a big "prai- 
rie schooner" wagon that weighed 1,400 pounds, a 
wooden axle, that would squeak at times if not 
watched closely with tar bucket in hand; and a load 
of a thousand pounds or more of camp equipage, 
etc. And so it was, but the reader may recall the 
fable of the "tortoise and the hare" and find the 
lesson of persi-stance that gave the race, not to the 

♦William Allen White. 

— Ill — 

swiftest afoot. Suffice it to say that on the 29th of 
November, 1907, twenty-two months to a day after 
leaving home at Puyallup, I drew up in front of the 
White House in Washington City, was kindly re- 
ceived by President Roosevelt, and encouraged to 
believe my labor had not been lost. 

The general reader may not be interested in the 
details of my varied experiences in the numrous 
towns and cities through which I passed, neverthe- 
less there were incidents in some of them well worth 

As noted before, the press, from the beginning, 
seemed to understand the object, and enter into the 
spirit of the work. It remained for one paper dur- 
ing the whole trip (Hamilton, Ohio), to solicit 
pay for a notice. My look of astonishment or 
something else it seems wrought a change, and the 
notice appeared, and I am able to record that not 
one cent was paid to the press during the whole 
trip, and I think fully a thousand articles have been 
published outlining and commending the work. Had 
it not been for the press, no such progress as has 
been made could have been accomplished, and if the 
appropriation be made by Congress to mark the 
Trail, the press did it, not, however, forgetting the 
patient oxen who did their part so well. 

An interesting incident, to me at least, occurred in 
passing through the little town of Huntsville, ten 
miles east of Hamilton, Ohio, where I was born, 
and had not seen for more than seventy years. A 
snap shot at the old house where I was born did 
me no good, for at Dayton some vandal stole my 
kodak, film and all, containing the precious im- 

Dayton treated me nicely, bought a goodly num- 
ber of my books and sent me on my way rejoicing 
with no further feeling of solicitude toward financ- 
ing the expedition. I had had particularly bad luck 
in the loss of my fine ox; then when the cows were 
bought and one of them wouldn't go at all, and I 
was compeled to ship the outfit to Omaha, more 
than a hundred miles; and was finally forced to buy 

— 112 — 

the unbroken steer Dandy, out of the stock yards 
at Omaha, and what was more, pay out all the 
money I could rake and scrape, save seven dolars, 
small wonder I should leave Dayton with a feeling 
of relief brought about by the presence in my pocket 
of some money not drawn from home. I had had 
other experiences of discouragement as well; when 
I first put the "Ox Team" in print, it was almost 
"with fear and trembling" — would the public buy 
it? I could not know without trying and so a thou- 
sand copies only were printed, which of course 
brought them up to a high price per copy. But 
these sold, and two thousand more copies printed 
and sold, and was about even on the expense, when 
lo and behold, my plates and cuts were burned and 
a new beginning had to be made. 

Mayor Badger of Columbus wrote giving me the 
"Freedom of the City," and Mayor Tom Johnson 
wrote to his chief of police, to "Treat Mr. Meeker 
as the guest of the city," which he did. 

At Buffalo, N. Y., though, the mayor would have 
none of it, unless I would pay one hundred dollars 
license fee, which, of course, I would not. For- 
tunately, though, a camping ground was found in 
the very heart of the city, and I received a hearty 
welcome from the citizens, and a good hearing as 
well. A pleasant episode occurred here to while 
away the time as well as to create a good feeling. 
The upper 400 of Buffalo were preparing to give a 
benefit to one of the hospitals in the shape of a 
circus. Elaborate preparations had been made and 
a part of the program was an attack by Indians on 
an emigrant train, the Indians being the well mount- 
ed young representatives of the city's elite. At this 
juncture I arrived in the city, and was besieged to 
go and represent the emigrant train, for which they 
would pay me, but I said "No, not for pay, but I 
will go," and so there was a realistic show in the 
"ring"' that afternoon and evening, and the hospital 
received over a thousand dollar benefit. 

Near Oneida some one said I had better take to 
the tow-path on the canal and save distance, beside? 

— 113 — 

avoid going over the hill, adding that while it was 
against the law, everybody did it and no one would 
object. So, when we came t«j the forks of the road, 
I followed the -best beaten track and soon found 
ourselves traveling along on the level, hard but 
narrow way, the tow-path. All went well and just 
at evening on the elevated bridge across the canal, 
three mules were crossing, and a canal-boat was 
seen on the opposite side, evidently preparing to 
"'camp" for the night. With the kodak we were able 
to catch the last mule's ears as he was backed into 
the boat for the night, but not so fortunate the 
next day when a boat with three men, two women 
and three long eared mules were squarely met, 
the latter on the tow-path. The mules took fright, 
got into a regular mix-up, broke the harness and 
went up the tow-path at a 2:40 gait, and were with 
difficulty brought under control. 

I had walked into Oneida the night before, and so 
did not see the sight or hear the war of words that 
followed. The men ordered W. to "take that outfit 
off the tow-path," his answer was that he could not 
do it without up-setting the wagon. The men said 
if he would not, they would d n quick and start- 
ed toward the wagon evidently intent to execute 
their threat, meanwhile swearing in chorus and 
the women swearing in chorus, one of them fairly 
shrieking. My old and trusted muzzle-loading 
rifle that we had carried across the Plains more 
than fifty-five years before lay handy by, and 
so when the men started toward him, W. picked 
up the rifle to show fight, and called on the dog 
Jim to take hold of the men. As he raised the 
gun to use as a club, one of the boatmen threw 
up his hands, bawling at the top of his voice, "Don't 
shoot, don't shoot," forgot to mix in oaths, and slunk 
out of sight behind the wagon; the others also drew 
back, Jim showed his teeth and a truce followed 
when one of the women became hysterical and the 
other called loudly for help. With but little incon- 
venience the mules were taken off the path and the 
team drove on, whereupon a volley of oaths were 

— 114 — 

hurled at the object of all the trouble in which the 
women joined at the top of their voices continuing 
as long as they could be heard, one of them shriek- 
ing — drunk W. thinks. 

The fun of it was, the gun that had spread such 
consternation hadn't been loaded for more than 
twenty-five years, but the sight of it was enough 
for the three stalwart braves of the "raging canal." 

I vowed then and there that we would travel no 
more on the tow-path of the canal. 

When I came to Albany, the mayor wouldn't talk 
to me after taking a look at my long hair. He was 
an old man, and as I was afterwards told, a "broken- 
down politician" (whatever that may mean). At 
any rate he treated me quite rudely I thought, 
though I presume, in his opinion, it was the best 
way to get rid of a nuisance, and so I passed on 
through the city. 

But it took New York City to cap the climax — to 
bring me all sorts of experiences, sometimes with the 
police, sometimes with the gaping crowds, and 
sometimes at the city hall. 

Mayor McLellan was not in the city when I ar- 
rived, but the acting mayor said, that while he could 
not grant a permit, to come on in — he would have 
the police commissioner instruct his men not to mo- 
lest me. Either the instructions were not general 
enough or else the men paid no attention for when 
I got down as, far as 161st street on Amsterdam 
avenue, a policeman interfered and ordered my driver 
to take the team to the police station, which he 
very properly refused to do. It was after dark 
and I had just gone around the corner to engage 
quarters for the night when this ocurred; returning 
I saw the young polieman attempt to move the 
team, but as he didn't know how, they wouldn't 
budge a peg, whereupon he arrested my driver, and 
took him away. Just then another polieman tried to 
coax me to drive the team down to the police station, 
I said, "No, sir, I will not." He said there were 
good stables down there, whereupon I told him I had 
already engaged a stable, and would drive to it nn- 


less prevented by force. The crowd had become 
large and began jeering the policeman. The situa- 
tion was that he couldn't drive the team to the sta- 
tion, and I wouldn't, and so there we were. To 
arrest me would make matters worse by leaving the 
team on the street without any one to care for it, 
and so finally the fellow got out of the way, and I 
drove the team to the stable, he, as well as a large 
crowd, following. As soon as I was in the stable 
he told me to come along with him to the police 
station; I told him I would go when I got the team 
attended to, but not before unless he wished to carry 
me. The up-shot of the matter was that by this 
time the captain of the precinct arrived and called 
his man off, and ordered my driver released. He 
had had some word from the city hall but had not 
notified his men. It transpired there was an ordi- 
nance against allowing cattle to be driven on the 
streets of New York. Of course, this was intended 
to apply to loose cattle, but the police interpreted 
it to mean any cattle, and had the clubs to enforce 
their interpretation. I was in the city, and couldn't 
get out without subjecting myself to arrest accord- 
ing to their version of the laws, and in fact I didn't 
want to get out. I wanted to drive down Broadway 
from one end to the other, which I did, a month 
later, as will presently be related. 

All hands said nothing short of an ordinance by 
the Board of Aldermen would clear the way; so I 
tackled the Aldermen. The New York Tribune 
sent a man over to the city hall to intercede for me; 
the New York Herald did the same thing, and so it 
came about, the Aldermen passed an ordinance 
granting me the right of way for thirty days, and 
also endorsed my work. I thought my trouble was 
over when that passed. Not so, the mayor was ab- 
sent, and the acting mayor could not sign an ordi- 
nance until after ten days had elapsed. Then the 
city attorney came in and said the Aldermen had 
exceeded their authority as they could not legally 
grant a special privilege. Then the acting mayor 
said he would not sign the ordinance, but if I would 

— 116 — 

wait until the next meeting of the Aldermen, if 
they did not rescind the ordinance, it would be cer- 
tified as he would not veto it, and that as no one 
was likely to test the legality he thought I would be 
safe in acting as though it was legal, and so, just 
thirty days from the time I had the bother with the 
police, and had incurred $250.00 expense, I drove 
down Broadway from 161st street to the Battery, 
without a slip or getting into any serious scrape of 
any kind except with one automobilist who became 
angered, but afterwards became "as good as pie," 
as the old saying goes. The rain fell in torrents as 
we neared the Battery. I had engaged quarters for 
the cattle near by, but the stablemen went back on 
me, and wouldn't let me in, and so drove up Water 
street a long way before finding a place and then 
was compelled to pay $4.00 for stable room and hay 
for the cattle over night. 

Thirty days satisfied me with New York. The 
fact was the crowds were so great that congestion 
of traffic always followed my presence, and I would 
be compeled to move. I went one day to the City 
Hall Park to get the Greely statue photographed 
with my team, and could not get away without the 
help of the police, and even then with great diffi- 

A trip across Brooklyn bridge to Brooklyn was 
made, but I found the congestion there almost as 
great as in the city proper. The month I was on 
the streets of New York was a month of anxiety, 
and I was glad enough to get out of the city on the 
17th of October, just thirty days after the drive 
down Broadway, and sixty days after the hold-up 
on 161st street, and the very day the big run on the 
Knickerbocker Bank began. 

I came near meeting a heavy loss two days be- 
fore leaving the city. Somehow I got sandwiched in 
on the East Side above the Brooklyn bridge in the 
congested district of the foreign quarters and finally 
at night-fall drove into a stable, put the oxen in the 
stalls, and, as usual, the dog Jim in the wagon. The 
next morning Jim was gone. The stablemen said 

— 117 — 

he had left the wagon a few moments after I had 
and had been stolen. The police accused the stable- 
men of being a party to the theft, in which I think 
they were right. Anyway, the day wore off and no 
tidings. Money could not buy that dog. He was 
an integral part of the expedition; always on the 
alert; always watchful of the wagon during my ab- 
sence and always willing to mind what I bid him to 
do. He had had more adventures than any other 
member of the work; first he had been tossed over a 
high brush by the ox Dave; then shortly after pitch- 
ed headlong over a barbed wire fence by an irate 
cow; then came the fight with a wolf; following 
this came a narrow escape from the rattle snake in 
the road; after this a trolley car run over him rolling 
him over and over again until he came out as dizzy 
as a drunken man — I thought he was a "goner" that 
time sure, but he soon straightened up, and finally 
in the streets of Kansas City was run over by a 
heavy truck while fighting another dog. The other 
dog was killed outright, while Jim came near having 
his neck broken, lost one of his best fighting teeth 
and had several others broken. I sent him to a 
veterinary surgeon and curiously enough he made no 
protest while having the broken teeth repaired and 
extracted. He could eat nothing but soup and milk 
for several days, and that poured down him as he 
could neither lap nor swallow liquids. It came very 
near being "all day" with Jim, but he is here with me 
all right and seemingly good for a new adventure. 

No other method could disclose where to find him 
than to offer a reward, which I did and feel sure 1 
paid the twenty dollars to ©ne of the fellow-parties 
to the theft who was brazen faced enough to demand 
pay for keeping him. Then was when I got up and 
talked pointedly, and was glad enough to get out of 
that part of the city. 

Between Newark and Elizabeth City, New Jersey, 
at a point known as "Lyons Farm," the old "Meeker 
Homestead" stands, built in the year 1767. Here the 
"Meeker Tribe," as we called ourselves, came out to 
greet me near forty strong, as shown by the illus- 

— 118 — 

— 119 — 

tration. Except in Philadelphia, I did not receive 
much recognition between Elizabeth City and 
Washington. Wilmington would have none of it, 
except for pay and so I passed on, but at Phila- 
delphia I was bid to go on Broad street under 
the shadow of the great city hall where great crowds 
came and took a lot of my literature away during 
the four days I tarried; in Baltimore I got a "cold 
shoulder," and passed through the city without halt- 
ing long. In parts of Maryland I found many lank 
oxen with long horns and light quarters, the drivers 
not being much interested in the outfit except to re- 
mark, "Them's mighty- fine cattle, stranger, where 
do you come from," and like passing remarks. 

But when I reached Washington, the atmosphere, 
so to speak, changed — a little bother with the police 
a few days but soon brushed aside. I had been just 
twenty-two months to a day in reaching Washington 
from the time I made my first day's drive from my 
home at Puyallup, January 29th, 1906. It took Presi- 
dent Roosevelt to extend a royal welcome. 

"Well, well, well, WELL," was the exclamation 
that fell from his lips as he came near enough the 
outfit to examine it critically, which he did. Sena- 
tor Piles and Representative Cushman of the Wash- 
ington State Congressional delegation had intro- 
duced me to the President in the cabinet room. 
Mr. Roosevelt showed a lively interest in the work 
from the start He did not need to be told that the 
Trail was a battlefield, or that the Oregon Pioneers 
who moved out and occupied the Oregon country 
while yet in dispute between Great Britain and the 
United States were heroes who fought a strenuous 
battle as "winners of the farther west," for he fairly 
snatched the words from my lips and went even 
farther than I had even dreamed of, let alone having 
hoped for, in invoking government aid to carry on 
the work. 

Addressing Senator Piles the President said with 
emphasis, "I am in favor of this work to mark this 
Trail and if you will bring before Congress a meas- 

— 120 — 

ure to accomplish it, I am with you, and will give it 
my support to do it thoroughly." 

Mr. Roosevelt thought the suggestion of a memo- 
rial highway should first come from the states 
through which the Trail runs; anyway it would be 
possible to get Congressional aid to mark the Trail, 
and that in any event, ought to be speedily done. 

Apparently, on a sudden recollecting other en- 
gagements pressing, the President asked, "Where is 
your team? I want to see it." Upon being told that 
it was near by, without ceremony, and without his 
hat he was soon alongside, asking questions faster 
than they could be answered, not idle questions, but 
such as showed his intense desire to get real infor- 
mation — bottom facts — as the saying goes. 

I left Washington on the 8th of January, 1908, 
and shipped the outfit over the Allegheny Mountains 
to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, having been in Wash- 
ington, as the reader will note, thirty-nine days. 
From McKeesport I drove to Pittsburg and there 
put the team into Winter quarters to remain until 
the 5th of March; thence shipped by boat on the 
Ohio River to Cincinnati, Ohio, stopping in that 
city but one day, and from there shipping by rail 
to St. Louis, Missouri. At Pittsburg and adjacent 
cities I was received cordially and encouraged great- 
ly to believe the movement for a national highway 
had taken a deep hold in the minds of the people. 
The Pittsburg automobile club issued a circular let- 
ter to all the automobile clubs of Pennsylvania, and 
likewise to the congressional delegation of Pennsyl- 
vania, urging them to favor not only the bill then 
pending in Congress, appropriating $50,000 for mark- 
ing the Oregon Trail, but also a measure looking 
to the joint action of the national government and 
the states, to build a national highway over the 
Oregon Trail as a memorial road. I was virtually 
given the freedom of the city of Pittsburg, and sold 
my literature without hindrance; but not so when 
I came to Cincinnati. The chief of police treated 
me with scant courtesy, but the automobile clubs of 
Cincinnati took action at once similar to that of 

— 121 — 

the Pittsburg club. Again when I arrived in St. 
Louis, I received at the City Hal the same frigid 
reception that had been given me at Cincinnati, 
although strenuous efforts were made by prominent 
citizens to bring out a different result. However, 
the Mayor was obdurate and so after tarrying for a 
few days, I drove out of the city, greatly disappoint- 
ed at the results, but not until after the automobile 
club and the Daughters of the American Revolution 
had taken formal action indorsing the work. My 
greater disappointment was that here I had anti- 
cipated a warm reception. St. Louis, properly speak- 
ing, had been the head center of the movement that 
finally established the Oregon Trail. Here was 
where Weythe, Bonnyville Whitman and others of 
the earlier movements out on the trail had outfitted; 
but there is now a commercial generation, many of 
whom that care but little about the subject. Never- 
theless I found a goodly number of zealous advo- 
cates of the cause of marking the trail. 

The drive from St. Louis to Jefferson City, the 
Capital of the State of Missouri, was tedious and 
without results other than reaching the point where 
actual driving began in early days. 

Governor Folk came out on the State House steps 
to have his photograph taken and otherwise signified 
his approval of the work, and I was accorded a cor- 
dial hearing by the citizens of that city. On the 
fourth of April I arrived at Independence, Missouri, 
which is generally understood to be the eastern 
terminus of the Trail. 

I found, however, that many of the pioneers 
shipped farther up the Missouri, some driving from 
Atchison, some from Leavenworth, others from St. 
Joseph and at a little later period, multitudes from 
Kainsville (now Council Bluffs), where Whitman 
and Parker made their final break from civilization 
and boldly turned their faces westerly for the un- 
known land of Oregon. 

A peculiar condition of affairs existed at Inde- 
pendence. The near-by giant city of Kansas City 
had long ago overshadowed the embryo commercial 

— 122 — 

mart of the early thirties and had taken even that 
early trade from Independence. However, the citi- 
zens of Independence manifested an interest in the 
work and took measures to raise a fund for a $5,000 
monument. At a meeting of the Commercial Club 
it was resolved to raise the funds, but found to be 
"up-hill work." Whether they will succeed is pro- 
blematical. A novel scheme had been adopted to 
raise funds. A local author proposed to write a 
drama, "The Oregon Trail," and put it on the stage 
at Independence and Kansas City, for the benefit of 
the Monument fund. If he can succeed in carrying 
out successfully the plot as outlined, he ought to 
write a play that would be a monument to the 
thought as well as to provide funds for a monument 
to the Trail, for certainly here is a theme that would 
not only fire the imagination of an audience but like- 
wise enlist their sympathies. I am so impressed 
with the importance of this work, that I am tempted 
to outline the theme in the hope if this attempt does 
not succeed, that others may be prompted to un- 
dertake the work. 

First, the visit of the four Flat Head Indians in 
search of the "white man's book of heaven," enter- 
tained in St. Louis by Gen. William Clark, of Lewis 
and Clark fame, until two of them died; then the 
death of a third on the way home; the historic 
speech of one, telling of their disappointment, and 
final return home of the single survivor; then fol- 
lows the two-thousand-mide bridal tour of Whitman 
and Spaulding, and this in turn by the historic 
movement of the early home builders to the Oregon 
country with its grand results; the fading memory 
of a forgetful generation until the recollections of 
the grand highway is recovered in a blaze of glory, 
to be handed down to succeeding generations, by the 
homage of a nation. 

At Kansas City, Mo., the thoughts of the people 
had been turned to the Santa Fe Trail by the active 
campaign in the border state of Kansas in erecting 
markers on that trail. To my utter surprise it 
seemed that the Oregon Trail had almost been for- 

— 123 — 

gotten; the sentiment and thought had all been cen- 
tered on the Sante Fe Trail. I tarried with them 
exactly one month, spoke to numerous organized 
bodies, and came away with the feeling the seed had 
been planted that would revive the memory of the 
Oregon Trail and finally result in a monument in the 
greater city. In the lesser Kansas City, Kansas, I 
visited all the public schools, spoke to the eleven 
thousand school children of the city and came away 
with the satisfaction of having secured contribu- 
tions from over 3,000 children to a fund for erecting 
a monument in that city. 

To further interest the children of the state of 
Kansas, I placed $25.00 in the hands of their State 
Superintendent of Schools, to be offered as a prize 
for the best essay on the Oregon Trail. This con- 
test has been determined during the calendar year of 
1908 and the award made. 

All existing maps in the State of Kansas ignore 
the Oregon Trail. The "Sante Fe Trail" is known; 
there is a "Fremont Trail," a "California Trail," a 
"Mormon Trail," but not one mile of an "Oregon 
Trail," although this great historic ancient trail 
traversed the state for fully two hundred miles. 
This incident shows how extremely important that 
early action to mark the Oregon Trail should be 
taken before it is too late. 

The Santa Fe and Oregon Trails from Independ- 
ence and Kansas City are identical out to the town 
of Gardner, Kansas, forty miles or therabouts. 
Here the Santa Fe Trail bore on to the west and 
finally southwest, while the Oregon Trail bore stead- 
ily on to the northwest and encountered the Platte 
Valley below Grand Island in what is now Nebras- 
ka. At the "forks of the road," the historian Chitten- 
den says, "a simple signboard was seen which car- 
ried the words 'Road to Oregon,' thus pointing the 
way, for two thousand miles." No such signboard 
ever before pointed the road for so long a distance 
and probably another such never will. I determined 
to make an effort to at least recover the spot where 
this historic sign once stood, and if possible plant 

— 124 — 

a marker there. Kind friends in Kansas City, one 
of whom I had not met for sixty years, took me in 
their automobile to Gardner, Kansas, where, after 
a search of two hours, the two survivors were found 
who were able to point out the spot — Mr. V. R. Eli 
and William J. Ott, whose residence in the near vi- 
cinity dated back nearly fifty years; aged, respective- 
ly, 77 and 82 years. The point is at the intersection 
of Washington and Central Street in the town of 
Gardner, Kansas. In this little town of a few hun- 
dred inhabitants stands a monument for the Santa 
Fe Trail, a credit to the sentimental feelings of the 
community, but, having expended their energies on 
that work, it was impossible to get them to under- 
take to erect another, although I returned a few days 
later, spoke to a meeting of the town council and 
citizens and offered to secure $250 elsewhere if the 
town would undertake to raise a like sum. 

This last trip cost me over a hundred dollars. As I 
left the train at Kansas City on my return, my 
pocket was "picked" and all the money I had, save 
a few dollars, was gone. This is the first time in my 
life I have lost money in that way, and I want it to 
be the last. 

I planned to drive up the Missouri and investigate 
the remaining five prongs of The Trail, Leaven- 
worth, Atchison, St. Joseph and Kanesville, the 
other, Independence and Westpoint (now Kansas 
City), considered as one, but first drove to Topeka, 
the capital city of the State of Kansas, where I ar- 
rived May 11th (1908). The "Trail" crosses the Kan- 
sas River under the very shadow of the State House 
— not three blocks away — yet only a few knew of its 
existence The state had appropriated $1,000 to mark 
the Santa Fe Trail, and the Daughters of the Revo- 
lution had coducted a campaign of supplementing 
this fund and had actually procured the erection of 
96 markers. While I received a respectful hearing 
by these ladies, yet they shrank from undertaking 
new work at the present time. The same conditions 
controlled at Leavenworth and likewise at Atchison, 
and hence, I did not tarry long at either place, but 


at all three, Topeka, Leavenworth and Atchison, a 
lively interest was manifested, as well as at Law- 
rence, and I am led to feel the people do now know 
there is an Oregon Trail. All the papers did splendid 
work and have carried on the work in a way that 
will leave a lasting impression. 

On the 23rd of May the team arrived at St. Jo- 
seph, Missouri. At this point many pioneers had 
outfitted in early days and the sentiment was in 
hearty accord with the work, yet plainly there would 
be a hard "tug" to get the people together on a plan 
to erect a monument. "Times" were "very tight" to 
undertake such a work, came the response from so 
many that no organized effort was made. By this 
time the fact became known that the committee in 
Congress having charge of the bill appropriating 
$50,000 to mark the Trail, had taken action and 
had made a favorable report, and which is univer- 
sally held to be almost equivalent to the passage of 
the bill. 

So, all things considered, the conclusion was 
reached to suspend operation, ship the team home 
and for the time being, take a rest from the work. 
I had been out from home twenty-eight months, 
lacking but five days, hence it is small wonder if 
I should conclude to listen to the inner longings to 
get back to the home and home life. Put yourself 
in my place, reader, and see what you think you 
would have done. True, the Trail was not yet fully 
nor properly marked, yet something had been ac- 
complished and with this, the thought, a good deal 
more might be expected from the seed planted. 

May 26th, I shipped the outfit to Portland, Oregon, 
where I arrived on the 6th day of June (1908), and 
went into camp on the same grounds I had camped 
on in March (1906) on my outward trip. 

Words cannot express my deep feelings of grati- 
tude for the royal, cordial reception given me by the 
citizens of Portland, from the Mayor down to the 
humblest citizen, and for the joyous reunion with 
the 2,000 pioneers who had just assembled for their 
annual meeting. 


The drive from Portland to Seattle is one long to 
be remembered, and while occupying a goodly num- 
ber of days, yet not one moment of tedious time 
hung heavy on my shoulders, and on the 18th day of 
July, I drove into the City of Seattle and the long 
"trek" was ended. 

It would be unbecoming in me to assume in a vain- 
glorious mood that the manifestation of cordiality, 
and I may say joy in the hearts of many at my 
homecoming, was wholly due to the real merit of my 
work, knowing as I do that so many have magnified 
the difficulties of the trip, yet it would be less than 
human did I not feel, and unjust did I not express 
the pride, which I hope is pardonable, and openly 
acknowledge it, for the kindly words and generous 
actions of my friends and neighbors, and to all such 
I extend my kindest and heartiest thanks. 


Now that the trip has been made, and an account 
of stock, so to speak, taken, I have become surprised 
the work was undertaken. Not that I regret the act 
any more than I regret the first act of crossing the 
Plains in 1852, which to me now appears to be as 
incomprehensible as the later act. If one questions' 
the motive prompting and governing the movements 
of the early pioneers, scarcely two of the survivors 
will tell the same story, or give the same reason. 
This wonderful movement was brought vividly home 
to my mind recently while traversing the great fer- 
tile plains of the Middle West, where most of the 
emigrants came from. Here was a vast expanse of 
unoccupied fertile land, beautiful as ever mortal man 
looked upon; great rivers traversed this belt, to carry 
the surplus crops to distant markets; smaller streams 
ramify all over the region to multiply the opportuni- 
ties for choice locations to one's heart's content, and 
yet these Oregon emigrants passed all these opportu- 
nities and boldly struck out on the 2,000-mile stretch 
of what was then known as the Great American Des- 
ert, and braved the dangers of Indian warfare, of 
starvation, of sickness — in a word, of untold dan- 


gers, — to reach the almost totally unknown Oregon 
Country. Why did they do it? Can any man tell? 
I have been asked thousands of times while on this 
later trip what prompted me to make it? I can 
not answer that question satisfactorily to myself 
and have come to answering the question by asking 
another, or more accurately speaking, several, "Why 
do you decorate a grave?" or "Why do we as a peo- 
ple mark our battlefields?" or "Why do we erect 
monuments to the heoric dead of war?" It is the 
same sentiment, for instance, that prompted marking 
the Gettysburg battlefield. 

Yes, as I recently returned home over the Oregon 
Short Line railroad that in many places crossed the 
old Trail, with Dave and Dandy quietly chewing 
their cud in the car, and myself supplied with all the 
luxuries of a great palatial overland train, and 1 
began vividly to realize the wide expanse of country 
covered, and passed first one and then another of the 
camping places, I am led to wonder, if, after all, I 
could have seen the Trail stretched out, as like a 
panorama, as seen from the car window, would 1 
have undertaken the work? I sometimes think not. 
We all of us at times undertake things that look- 
bigger after completion, than in our vision ahead of 
us, or in other words, go into ventures without fully 
counting the cost. Perhaps, to an extent this was 
the case in this venture; the work did look larger 
from the car window than from the camp. Never- 
theless, I have no regrets to express nor exultations 
to proclaim. In one sense the expedition has been 
a failure, in that as yet the Trail is not sufficiently 
marked for all time and for all generations to come. 
We have made a beginning, and let us hope the end 
sought will in the near future become an accom- 
plished fact, and not forget the splendid response 
from so many communities on the way in this, the 
beginning. And let the reader, too, remember he 
has an interest in this work, a duty to perform to aid 
in building up American citizenship, for "monument- 
ing" the Oregon Trail means more than the mere 
preservation in memory of that great highway; it 


means the building up of loyalty, patriotism — of 
placing the American thought upon a higher plane, 
as well as of teaching history in a form never to be 
forgotten and always in view as an object lesson. 

The financing of the expedition became at once a 
most difficult problem. A latent feeling existed fa- 
voring the work, but how to utilize it — concen- 
trate it upon a plan that would succeed — confronted 
the friends of the enterprise. Elsewhere, the reader 
will find the reason given why the ox team was 
chosen and the drive over the old Trail undertaken. 
But there did not exist a belief in the minds of 
many that the "plan would work," and so it came 
about that almost every one refused to contribute, 
and many tried to discourage the effort, sincerely 
believing that it would result in failure. 

I have elsewhere acknowledged the liberality of 
H. C. Davis of Claquato, Washington, sending his 
check for $50.00 with which to purchase an ox. Irv- 
ing Alvord of Kent, Washington, contributed $25.00 
for the purchase of a cow. Ladd of Portland gave a 
check for $100.00 at the instance of George H. Hines, 
who also secured a like sum from others — $200.00 in 
all. Then when I lost the ox Twist and telegraphed 
to Henry Hewitt of Tacoma to send me two hun- 
dred dollars, the response came the next day to the 
bank of Gothenburg, Nebraska, to pay me that 
amount. But, notwithstanding the utmost effort and 
most rigid economy, there did seem at times that an 
impending financial failure was just ahead. In the 
midst of the enthusiasm manifested, I felt the need 
to put on a bold front and refuse contributions for 
financing the expedition, knowing full well that the 
cry of "graft" would be raised and that contribu- 
tions to local committees for monuments would be 
lessened, if not stopped altogether. The outlay had 
reached the $1,400.00 mark when I had my first 
1,000 copies of the "Ox Team" printed. Would the 
book sell, I queried? I had written it in camp, along 
the roadside; in the wagon — any place and at any 
time I could snatch an opportunity or a moment 
from other pressing work. These were days of 


anxieties. Knowing full well the imperfections of 
the work, small wonder if I did, in a figurative sense, 
put out the book "with fear and trembling," — an edi- 
tion of 1,000 copies. The response came quick, for 
the book sold and the expedition was saved from 
failure for lack of funds. Two thousand more were 
printed, and while these were selling, my cuts, plates 
and a part of a third reprint were all destroyed by 
fire in Chicago, and I had to begin at the bottom 
New plates and new cuts were ordered, and this time 
6,000 copies were printed, and later another reprint 
of 10.000 copies ("19,000 in all), with less than 1,00 
copies left unsold two months after arrival home. 

Then followed an edition of 5,000 copies in 1909 — 
all sold — and now followed by the present reprint 
of 10,000—34.000 in all. 

So the book saved the day. Nevertheless, there 
were times — until I reached Philadelphia — when the 
question of where the next dollars of expense money 
would come from before an imperative demand came 
for it bore heavily on my mind. Two months tied 
up in Indianapolis during the winter came near de- 
ciding the question adversely; then later, being shut 
out from selling at Buffalo, Albany and some other 
places and finally the tie-up in New York, related 
elsewhere, nearly "broke the bank.'' New York did 
not yield a rich harvest for selling as I had hoped 
for, as the crowds were too great to admit of my 
remaining long in one place, but when Philadelphia 
was reached and I was assigned a place on Broad 
street near the City Hall, the crowds came, the sales 
ran up to $247.00 in one day and $600.00 for the four 
days, the financial question was settled, and there 
were no more anxious moments about where the next 
dollar was to come from, although the aggregate ex- 
penses of the expedition had reached the sum of 
nearly eight thousand dollars. 

"All is well that ends well," as the old saying goes, 
and so I am rejoiced to be able to report so favor- 
able a termination of the financial part of the ex- 


not to be thought of; nobody ever heard of a log- 
rolling or barn-raising without whiskey. And so I 
will say to the zealous temperance reformers, be of 
good cheer, for the world has moved in these seven- 
ty-eight years. Be it said, though, to the everlasting 
honor of my father, that he set his head firmly 
against the practice, and said his grain should rot 
in the field before he would supply whiskey to his 
harvest hands, and I have no recollections of ever 
but once tasting any alcoholic liquors in my boy- 
hood days. 

I did, however, learn to smoke when very young. 
It came about in this way: My mother always 
smoked, as long as I can remember. Women those 
days smoked as well as men, and nothing was 
thought of it. 

Well, that was before the time of matches, or 
leastwise, it was a time when it was thought neces- 
sary to economize in their use, and mother, who was 
a corpulent woman, would send me to put a coal 
in her pipe, and so I would take a whiff or two, just 
to get it started, you know, which, however, soon de- 
veloped into the habit of lingering to keep it going. 
But let me be just to myself, — for more than twenty- 
five years ago I threw away ray pipe and have never 
smoked since, and never will, and now to those 
smokers who say they "can't quit" I want to call 
their attention to one case of a man who did. 

My next recollection of school-days was after fath- 
er had moved to Lockland, Ohio, then ten miles 
north of Cincinnati, now, I presume, a suburb of that 
great city. I played "hookey" instead of going to 
school, but one day while under the canal bridge 
the noise of passing teams so frightened me that I 
ran home and betrayed myself. Did my mother 
whip me? Why, God bless her dear old soul, no, 
Whipping of children, though, both at home and in 
the school-room, was then about as common as 
eating one's breakfast; but my parents did not think 
it was necessary to rule by the rod, though then 
their family government was exceptional. And so 


we see now a different rule prevailing, and see that 
the world does move and is getting better. 

After my father's removal to Indiana times were 
"hard," as the common expression goes, and all 
members of the household for a season were called 
upon to contribute their mite. I drove four yoke 
of oxen for twenty-five cents a day, and a part of 
that time boarded at home at that. This was on the 
Wabash where oak grubs grew, as father often 
said, "as thick as hair on a dog's back," but not so 
thick as that. But we used to force the big plow- 
through and cut grubs with the plow shear, as big 
as my wrist; and when we saw a patch of them 
ahead, then was when I learned how to halloo and 
rave at the poor oxen and inconsiderately whip them 
but father wouldn't let me swear at them. Let ine 
say parenthetically that I have long since discon- 
tinued such a foolish practice, and that I now talk 
to my oxen in a conversational tone of voice and 
use the whip sparingly. When father moved to 
Indianapolis, I think in 1841, "times" seemed harder 
than ever, and I was put to work wherever an 
opportunity for employment offered, and encour- 
aged by my mother to seek odd jobs and keep the 
money myself, she, however, becoming my banker; 
and in three years I had actually accumulated $37. 
My! but what a treasure that was to me, and what a 
bond of confidence between my mother and myself, 
for no one else, as I thought, knew about my treas- 
ure. I found out afterwards, though, that father 
knew about it all the time. 

My ambition was to get some land. I had heard 
there was a forty-acre tract in Hendrix county (In- 
diana) yet to be entered at $1.25 per acre, and as 
soon as I could get $50.00 together I meant to hunt 
up that land and secure it. I used to dream about 
that land day times as well as at night. I sawed 
wood and cut each stick twice for twenty-five cents 
a cord, and enjoyed the experience, for at night I 
could add to my treasure. It was because my mind 
did not run on school work and because of my 
restless disposition that my father allowed me to 


do this instead of compelling me to attend school, 
and which cut down my real schoolboy days to less 
than six months. It was, to say the least, a danger- 
ous experiment and one which only a mother (who 
knows her child better than all others) dare take, 
and I will not by any means advise other mothers to 
adopt such a course. 

Then when did you get your education? the casual 
reader may ask. I will tell you a story. When in 
1870 I wrote my first book (long since out of print), 
"Washington Territory West of the Cascade Moun- 
tains," and submitted the work to the Eastern pub- 
lic, a copy fell into the hands of Jay Cook, who then 
had six power presses running advertising the 
Northern Pacific railroad, and he at once took up my 
whole edition. Mr. Cook, whom I met, closely ques- 
tioned me as to where I was educated. After hav- 
ing answered his many queries about my life on the 
frontier he would not listen to my disclaimer thatl 
was not an educated man, referring to the work in 
his hand. The fact then dawned on me that it was 
the reading of the then current literature of the day 
that had taught me. I answered that the New York 
Tribune had educated me, as I had then been a close 
reader of that paper for eighteen years, and it was 
there I got my pure English diction, if I possessed 
it. We received mails only twice a month for a long 
time, and sometimes only once a month, and it is 
needless to say that all the matter in the paper was 
read and much of it re-read and studied in the cabin 
and practiced in the field. However, I do not set 
my face against school training, but can better ex- 
press my meaning by the quaint saying that "too 
much of a good thing is more than enough," a phrase 
in a way senseless, which yet conveys a deeper mean- 
ing than the literal words express. The context will 
show the lack of a common school education, after 
all, was not entirely for want of an opportunity, but 
from my aversion to confinement and "preference for 
work to study. 

In those days apprenticeship was quite common, 
and it was not thought to be a disgrace for a child 


to be "bound out" until he was twenty-one, the more 
especially if this involved learning a trade. Father 
took a notion he would "bind me out" to a Mr. Ath- 
ens, the mill owner at Lockland, who was childless, 
and took me with him one day to talk it over. 
Finally, when asked how I would like the change. 
I promptly replied that it would be all right if Mrs. 
Arthens would "do up my sore toes," whereupon 
there was such an outburst of merriment that I al- 
ways remembered it. We must remember that boys 
in those days did not wear shoes in summer and quite 
often not in winter either. But mother put a quietus 
on the whole business and said the family must not 
be divided, and it was not, and in that she was right. 
Give me the humble home for a child, that is n 
home in fact, rather than the grandest palace where 
home life is but a sham. 

I come now to an important event of my life, 
when father moved from Lockland, Ohio, to near 
Covington, Indiana. I was not yet seven years old, 
but walked all the way behind the wagon and be- 
gan building "castles in the air," which is the first 
(but by no means the last) that I remember. We 
were going out to Indiana to be farmers, and it was 
here, near the banks of the Wabash, that I learned 
the art of driving four yoke of oxen to a breaking 
plow, without swearing. 

That reminds me of an after-experience, the sum- 
mer I was nineteen. Uncle John Kinworthy (good 
old soul he was), an ardent Quaker, who lived a mile 
or so out from Bridgeport, Indiana, asked me one 
day while I was passing his place with three yoke 
of oxen to haul a heavy cider press beam in place. 
This led the oxen through the front door yard and 
in full sight and hearing of three buxom Quaker 
girls, who either stood in the door or poked their 
heads out of the window, in company with their 
good mother. Go through the front yard past those 
girls the cattle would not, and kept doubling back, 
first on one side and then on the other. Uncle John- 
ny, noticing I did not swear at the cattle, and attrib- 
uting the absence of oaths to the presence of ladies, 


or maybe, like a good many others, he thought oxen 
could not be driven without swearing at them, sought 
an opportunity, when the mistress of the house 
could not hear him, and said in a low tone, "if thee 
can do any better, thee had better let out the word." 
Poor, good old soul, he doubtless justified himself in 
his own mind that it was no more sin to swear all 
the time than part of the time; and why is it? I 
leave the answer to that person, if he can be found, 
that never swears. 

Yes, I say again, give me the humble home for a 
child, that is a home in fact, rather than the grand- 
est palace where home life is but a sham. And 
right here is where this generation has a grave pro- 
blem to solve, if it's not the gravest of the age, the 
severance of child life from the real home and the 
real home influences, by the factory child labor, the 
boarding schools, the rush for city life, and so many 
others of like influences at work, thai one can only 
take time to mention examples. 

And now the reader will ask, What do you mean 
by the home life, and to answer that I will relate 
some features of my early home life, though by no 
means would say that I would want to return to all 
the ways of "ye olden times " 

My mother always expected each child to have a 
duty to perform, as well as time to play. Light la- 
bor" to be sure, but labor; something of service. Our 
diet was so simple, the mere mention of it may 
create a smile with the casual reader. The mush 
pot was a great factor in our home life; a great 
heavy iron pot that hung on the crane in the chim- 
ney corner where the mush would slowly hubble 
and splutter over or near a bed of oak coals for half 
the afternoon. And such mush, always made from 
yellow corn meal and cooked three hours or more. 
This, eaten with plenty of fresh, rich milk, com- 
prised the supper for the children. Tea? Not to be 
thought of. Sugar? It was too expensive— cost 
fifteen to eighteen cents a pound, and at a time it 
took a week's labor to earn as much as a day's labor 
now. Cheap molases, sometimes, but not often. 


Meat, not more than once a day, but eggs in abund- 
ance. Everything father had to sell was low-priced, 
while everything mother must buy at the store was 
high. Only to think of it, you who complain of the 
hard lot of the workers of this generation; wheat 
twenty-five cents a bushel, corn fifteen cents, pork 
two and two and a half cents a pound, with bacon 
sometimes used as fuel by the reckless, racing steam- 
boat captains of the Ohio and Mississippi. But when 
we got onto the farm with abundance of fruit and 
vegetables, with plenty of pumpkin pies and apple 
dumplings, our cup of joy was full, and we were the 
happiest mortals on earth. As I have said, 4:00 
o'clock scarcely ever found mother in bed, and 
until within very recent years I can say that 5:00 
o'clock almost invariably finds me up. Habit, do 
you say? No, not wholly, though that may have 
something to do with it, but I get up early because 
I want to, and because I have something to do. 

When I was born, thirty miles of railroad com- 
prised the whole mileage of the United States, and 
this only a tramway. Now, how many hundred 
thousand miles I know not, but many miles over the 
two hundred thousand mark. When I crossed the 
great states of Illinois and Iowa on my way to Ore- 
gon in 1852 not a mile of railroad was seen in either 
state. Only four years before, the first line was 
built in Indiana, really a tramway, from Madison, 
on the Ohio river, to Indianapolis. What a furore 
the building of that railroad created! Earnest, hon- 
est men opposed the building just as sincerely as 
men now advocate public ownership; both proposi- 
tions fallacious, the one long since exploded, the 
other in due time, as sure to die out as the first. My 
father was a strong advocate of the railroads, but 
I caught the arguments on the other side advocated 
with such vehemence as to have the sound of an- 
ger. What will our farmers do with their hay if 
all the teams that are hauling freight to the Ohio 
river are thrown out of employment? What will 
the tavern keepers do? What will become of the 
wagons? A hundred such queries would be asked by 


the opponents of the railroad and, to themselves, 
triumphantly answered that the country would be 
ruined if railroads were built. Nevertheless, In- 
dianapolis has grown from ten thousand to near 
two hundred thousand, notwithstanding the city en- 
joyed the unusual distinction of being the first term- 
inal city in the state of Indiana. I remember it 
was the boast of the railroad magnates of that day 
that they would soon increase the speed of their 
trains to fourteen miles an hour, — this when they 
were running twelve. 

In the year 1845 a letter came from Grandfather 
Baker to my mother that he would give her a thou- 
sand dollars with which to buy a farm. The burn- 
ing question with my father and mother was how 
to get that money out from Ohio to Indiana. They 
actually went in a covered wagon to Ohio for it and 
hauled it home, all silver, in a box. This silver was 
nearly all foreign coin. Prior to that time, but a 
few million dollars had been coined by the United 
States government. Grandfather Baker had accum- 
ulated this money by marketing small things in Cin- 
cinnati, twenty-five miles distant. I have heard my 
mother tell of going to market on horseback with 
grandfather many times, carrying eggs, butter and 
even live chickens on the horse she rode. Grand- 
father would not go in debt, and so he lived on his 
farm a long time without a wagon, but finally be- 
came wealthy, and was reputed to have a "barrel of 
money" (silver, of course), out of which store the 
thousand dolars mentioned came. It took nearly a 
whole day to count this thousand dollars, as there 
seemed to be nearly every nation's coin on earth rep- 
resented, and the "tables" (of value) had to be con- 
sulted, the particular coins counted, and their aggre- 
gate value computed. 

It was this money that bought the farm five miles 
southwest of Indianapolis, where I received my first 
real farm training. Father had advanced ideas about 
farming, though a miller by trade, and early taught 
me some valuable lessons I never forgot. We (I say 
"we" advisedly, as father continued to work in the 


mill and left me in charge of the farm) soon brought 
up the rundown farm to produce twenty-three bush- 
els of wheat per acre instead of ten, by the rotation 
of corn, and clover and then wheat. But there was 
no money in farming at the then prevailing prices, 
and the land, for which father paid ten dollars an 
acre, would not yield a rental equal to the interest 
on the money. Now that same land is worth two 
hundred dollars an acre. 

For a time I worked in the Journal printing office 
for S. V. B. Noel, who, T think, was the publisher 
of the Journal, and also printed a free-soil paper. A 
part of my duty was to deliver those papers to sub- 
scribers, who treated me civilly, but when I was 
caught on the streets of Indianapolis with the pa- 
pers in my hand I was sure of abuse from some 
one, and a number of times narrowly escaped per- 
sonal violence. In the office I worked as roller boy, 
but known as "the devil," a term that annoyed me 
not a little. The pressman was a man by the name 
of Wood. In the same room was a power press, 
the power being a stalwart negro who turned a crank. 
We used to race with the power press, when I would 
fly the sheets, that is, take them off when printed 
with one hand and roll the type with the other. This 
so pleased Noel that he advanced my wages to $1.50 ^ 
a week. 

The present generation can have no conception of 
the brutal virulence of the advocates of slavery 
against the "nigger" and "nigger lovers," as all were 
known who did not join in the crusade against the 

One day we heard a commotion on the streets, and 
upon inquiry were told that "they had just killed 
a nigger up the street, that's all," and went back to 
work shocked, but could do nothing. But when a 
little later word came that it was Wood's brother 
that had led the mob and that it was "old Jimmy 
Blake's man" (who was known as a sober, inof- 
fensive colored man) consternation seized Wood as 
with an iron grip. His grief was inconsolable. The 
negro had been set upon by the mob just because 


he was a negro, and for no other reason, and brutal- 
ly murdered. That murder, coupled with the abuse 
I had received at the hands of this same element, 
set me to thinking and I then and there embraced 
the anti-slavery doctrines and have ever after ad- 
hered to them. 

One of the subscribers to whom I delivered that 
anti-slavery paper was Henry Ward Beecher, who 
had then not attained the fame that came to him 
later in life, but to whom I became attached by his 
kind treatment and gentle words he always found 
time to utter. He was then, I think, the pastor of 
the Congregational Church that faced the "Gover- 
nor's circle." The church has long since been torn 

One episode of my life I remember because I 
thought my parents were in the wrong. Vocal music 
was taught in singing schools, almost, I might say, 
as regular as day schools. I was passionately fond 
of music, and before the change came had a splendid 
alto voice, and became a leader in my part of the 
class. This coming to the notice of the trustees of 
Beecher's church, an effort was made to have me 
join the choir. Mother first objected because my 
clothes were not good enough, whereupon an offer 
was made to suitably clothe me and pay something 
besides; but father objected because he did not want 
me to listen to preaching other than the sect (Camp- 
bellite) to which he belonged. The incident set me 
to thinking, and finally drove me, young as I was, 
into the liberal faith, though I dared not openly es- 
pouse it. In those days many ministers openly 
preached of endless punishment in a lake of fire, but 
I never could believe that doctrine, and yet their 
words would carry terror into my heart. The ways 
of the world are better now in this, as in many other 

Another episode of my life while working in the 
printing office I have remembered vividly all these 
years. During the campaign of 1844 the Whigs held 
a second gathering on the Tippecanoe battle-ground. 
It could hardly be called a convention. A better 


name for the gathering would be a political camp- 
meeting. The people came in wagons, on horse- 
back, a-foot, — any way to get there — and camped 
just like people used to do in their religious camp- 
meetings. The journeymen printers of the Journal 
office planned to go in a covered dead-ax wagon, and 
signified they would make a place for the "devil," if 
his parents would let him go along. This was speed- 
ily arranged wjth mother, who always took charge of 
such matters. The proposition coming to Noel's ears 
he said for the men to print me some campaign 
songs, which they did with a will, Wood running 
them off the press after night while I rolled the type 
for him. My! wasn't I the proudest boy that ever 
walked the earth? Visions of a pocket full of money 
haunted me almost day and night until we arrived 
on the battlefield. But lo and behold, nobody 
would pay any attention to me. Bands of music 
were playing here and there; glee clubs would sing 
and march first on one side of the ground and then 
the other; processions were marching and the crowds 
surging, making it necessary for one to look out 
and not get run over. Coupled with this, the rain 
would pour down in torrents, but the marching and 
countermarching went on all the same and continued 
for a week. An elderly journeyman printer named 
May, who in a way stood sponser for our party, told 
me if I would get up on the fence and sing my songs 
the people would buy them, and sure enough the 
crowds came and I sold every copy I had, and went 
home with eleven dollars in my pocket, the richest 
boy on earth. 

It seems though that I was not "cut out" for a 
printer. My inclination ran more to the open air life, 
and so father placed me on the farm as soon as the 
purchase was made and left me in full charge of the 
work, while he turned his attention to milling. Be 
it said that I early turned my attention to the girls 
as well as to the farm, married young — before I had 
reached the age of twenty-one, and can truly say this 
was a happy venture. 


Emigration of 1843. 

Nearly seventy years ago (1843) a company num- 
bering nearly one thousand strong, of men, women, 
and children, with over five thousand cattle, guided 
by such intrepid men as Peter Burnett (afterwards 
first governor of California), Jesse Applegate, al- 
ways a first citizen in the community where he had 
cast his lot, and James W. Nesbit, afterwards one 
of the first senators from the State of Oregon, made 
their way with ox and cow teams toilsomely up the 
Platte valley, up the Sweetwater, through the South 
Pass of the Rocky mountains, and across rivers to 
Fort Hall on the upper waters of Snake river. This 
far there had been a few traders' wagons and the 
track had been partially broken for this thousand- 
mile stretch. Not so for the remainder of their 
journey of near eight hundred miles. Not a wheel 
had been turned west of this post (then the abiding 
place for the "watch dogs" of the British, the Hud- 
son Bay Company, who cast a covetous eye upon 
the great Oregon country), except the Whitman cart, 
packed a part of the way. but finally stalled at Fort 
Boise, a few hundred miles to the west.- 

This great company, encouraged and guided by 
Whitman, took their lives in their hands when they 
cut loose from Fort Hall and headed their teams 
westward over an almost unexplored region with 
only Indians' or traders' horseback trails before them 
and hundreds of miles of mountainous country to 


"For what," wrote Horace Greeley in his paper, 
the New York Tribune, July 22, 1843, "do they brave 
the. desert, the wilderness, the savage, the snowy 
precipices of the Rocky mountains, the weary sum- 
mer march, the storm-drenched bivouac- and the 
gnawings of famine? This emigration of more than 
a thousand persons in one body to Oregon wears an 
aspect of insanity." 

The answer came back in due time, "for what" 
they braved the dangers of a trip across the Plains 


to an almost unknown land, in petitions praying for 
help to hold the country they had, as we might say, 
seized; for recognition as American citizens to be 
taken under the fostering care of the home govern- 
ment that their effort might not fail. And yet five 
long years passed and no relief came. An army 
had been assembled, an Indian war fought, when, at 
the dying moment of Congress, under the stress of 
public opinion, aroused by the atrocious massacre of 
Whitman, party passion on the slavery question was 
smothered, the long-looked for relief came, and the 
Oregon bill was passed. They had "held the Fort" 
til victory perched upon their banner, and the foun- 
dation was laid for three great free starts to enter 
the Union. 

No more heroic deed is of record than this, to span 
the remainder of a continent by the wagon track. 
Failure meant intense suffering to all and death to 
many. There was no retreat. They had, in a fig- 
urative sense, "burned their bridges behind them " 
Go on they must, or perish. 

Cause That Saved Oregon From British Rule. 

When this train safely arrived, the preponderance 
of the American settlers was so great that there was 
no more question as to who should temporarily pos- 
sess the Oregon country. An American provisional 
government was immediately organized, the British 
rule was challenged, and Oregon was "saved," and 
gave three great states to the Union, and a large 
part of two more. 

Other ox team brigades came. Fourteen hundred 
people in 1844 followed the track made in 1843. and 
three thousand in 1845, and on August 15 of that 
year the Hudson Bay Company accepted the protec- 
tion of the provisional government and paid taxes 
to its officers. 

Shall we let the memory of such men and 
women smolder in our minds and sink into ob- 
livion? Shall we refuse to recognize their great 
courageous acts and fail to do honor to their 


memory We erect monuments to commemorate the 
achievements of grim war and to mark the bloody 
battlefields; then why shall we not honor those who 
went out to the battle of the Plains? — a battle of 
peace, to be sure, yet a battle that called for as 
heroic deeds and for as great sacrifice as any of war 
and fraught with as momentous results as the most 
sanguinary battles of history. The people that held 
Oregon with such firm grip till the sacrifice came 
that ended all contention deserve a tender place in 
the hearts of the citizens of this great common- 

A glimpse into the life of the struggling mass of 
the first wagon train is both interesting and useful, 
interesting in the study of social life of the past, 
and useful from a historical point of view. 


Jesse Applegate, leader of the "cow column, - ' after 
the division into two companies, many years after- 
wards wrote of the trip, and his account has been 
published and republished and may be found in full 
in the Oregon Historical Quarterly. His writing is 
accepted as classic, aad his facts, from first hands, 
as true to the letter. 

Portraying the scenes with the "cow column" for 
one day he wrote: 

"It is 4:00 o'clock a. m. ; the sentinels on duty 
have discharged their rifles — the signal that the hours 
of sleep are over — and every wagon and tent is pour- 
ing forth its night tenants, and slow kindling smokes 
begin lazily to rise and float away in the morning air 
Sixty men start from the corral, spreading as they 
make through the vast herd of cattle and horses that 
make a semi-circle around the encampment, the most 
distant perhaps two miles away. 

"The herders pass the extreme verge and care- 
fully examine for trails beyond to see that none of 
the animals have strayed or been stolen during the 
night. This morning no trails lead beyond the out- 
side animals \a sight, and by five o'clock the herders 
begin to contract the great moving circle, and the 


well-trained animals move slowly towards camp, 
clipping here and there a thistle or a tempting bunch 
of grass on the way. In about an hour five thou- 
sand animals are close up to the encampment, and 
the teamsters are busy selecting their teams and 
driving them inside the corral to be yoked. The 
corral is a circle one hundred yards deep formed with 
wagons connected strongly with each other; the 
wagon in the rear being connected with the wagon 
in front by its tongue and ox chains. It is a strong 
barrier that the most vicious ox can not break, and 
in case of attack from the Sioux would be no con- 
temptible intrenchment. 

"From 6:00 to 7:00 o'clock is the busy time; break- 
fast is to be eaten, the tents struck, the wagons 
loaded and the teams yoked and brought up in readi- 
ness to be attached to their respective wagons. All 
know when, at 7:00 o'clock, the signal to march 
sounds, that those not ready to take their places in 
the line of march must fall into the dusty rear for 
the day. There are sixty wagons. They have been 
divided into fifteen divisions or platoons of four 
wagons each, and each platoon is entitled to lead in 
its turn. The leading platoon today will be the rear 
one tomorrow, and will bring up the rear, unless 
some teamster, through indolence or negligence, has 
lost his place in the line, and is condemned to that 
uncomfortable post. It is within ten minutes of 
7:00; the corral, but now a strong barricade, is 
everywhere broken, the teams being attached to the 
wagons. The women and children have taken their 
places in them. The pilot (a borderer who has 
passed his life on the verge of civilization, and has 
been chosen to his post of leader from his knowledge 
of the savage and his experience in travel through 
roadless wastes) stands ready, in the midst of his 
pioneers and aids, to mount and lead the way. Ten or 
fifteen young men, not to-day on duty, form another 
cluster. They are ready to start on a buffalo hunt, 
are well-mounted and well-armed, as they need to be, 
for the unfriendly Sioux has driven the buffalo out of 
the Platte, and the hunters must ride fifteen or twen- 


ty miles to find them. The cow drivers are hasten- 
ing, as they get ready, to the rear of their charge, to 
collect and. prepare them for the day's march. 

"It is on the stroke of 7:00; the rush to and fro, 
the cracking of whips, the loud command to oxen, 
and what seemed to be the inextricable confusion of 
the last ten minutes has ceased. Fortunately every- 
one has been found and every teamster is at his post. 
The clear notes of a trumpet sound in the front; 
the pilot and his guards mount their horses; the lead- 
ing divisions of the wagons move out of the encamp- 
men and take up the line of march; the rest fall into 
their places with the precision of clockwork, until the 
spot so lately full of life sinks back into that soli- 
tude that seems to reign over the broad plain and 
rushing river as the caravan draws its lazy length 
towards the distant El Dorado. 

"The pilot, by measuring the ground and timing 
the speed of the horses, has determined the rate of 
each, so as to enable him to select the nooning place 
as nearly to the requisite grass and water can be 
had at the end of five hours' travel of the wagons. 
To-day, the ground being favorable, little time has 
been lost in preparing for the road, so that he and 
his pioneers are at the nooning place an hour in ad- 
vance of the wagons, which time is spent in preparing 
convenient watering places for the wagons and dig- 
ging little wells near the bank of the Platte. As the 
teams are not unyoked, but simply turned loose from 
the wagons, a corral is not formed at noon, but the 
wagons are drawn up in columns, four abreast, the 
leading wagon of each platoon on the left, the 
platoons being formed with that in view. This 
brings friends together at noon as well as at night. 

"To-day an extra session of the council is being 
held to settle a dispute that does not admit of de- 
lay, between a proprietor and a young man who has 
undertaken to do a man's service on the journey for 
bed and board. Many such cases exist and much in- 
terest is taken in the manner in which this high 
court, from which there is no appeal, will defiine the 
rights of each party in such engagements. The coun- 


cil was a high court in the most exalted sense. It 
was a senate composed of the ablest and most re- 
spected fathers of the emigration. It exercised both 
legislative and judicial powers and its laws and de- 
cisions proved equal, and worthy of the high trust 
reposed in it. . . 

"It is now one o'clock; the bugle has sounded 
and the caravan has resumed its westward joufney. 
It is in the same order, but the evening is far less 
animated than the morning march. A drowsiness has 
apparently fallen on man and beast; the teamsters 
drop asleep on their perches and the words of com- 
mand are now addressed to the slowly creeping oxen 
in the soft tenor of women or the piping treble of 
children, while the snores of the teamsters make 
a droning accompaniment 

"The sun is now getting low in the west and at 
length the painstaking pilot is standing ready to 
conduct the train in the circle which he has previous- 
ly measured and marked out, which is to form the in- 
variable fortification for the night. The leading wag- 
ons follow him so nearly around the circle that but 
a wagon length separates them. Each wagon fol- 
lows in its track, the rear closing on the front, until 
its tongue and ox chains will perfectly reach from 
one to the other; and so accurate (is) the measure 
and perfect the practice that the hindmost wagon 
of the train always precisely closes the gateway. As 
each wagon is brought into position it is dropped 
from the team (the teams being inside the circle), 
the team is unyoked and the yoke and chains are 
used to connect the wagon strongly with that in its 
front. Within ten minutes frim the time the leading 
wagon halted the barricade is formed, the teams un- 
yoked and driven out to pasture. Everyone is busy 
preparing fires ... to cook the evening meal, 
pitching tents and otherwise preparing for the night. 
. . . The watches begin at 8:00 o'clock p. m. and 
end at 4:00 a. m." 


Friends who have read "The Ox Team," that has 
now passed through five editions (24,000 copies), 
should understand that the present reprint (of 10,000 
copies) is merely a change of title and printed 
under another form for a cheaper book, to encour- 
age the sale to the general public without reference 
to profit. 

A bill is now pending in Congress appropriating 
$100,000 to complete the work of marking the Trail, 
and with the hope this will involve a preliminary- 
survey for a national highway as a memorial road 
to the pioneers. We do not expect this to pass 
until the second session of the present Congress, 
and after the election, and know by experience we 
have no certain assurance that favorable action will 
then be taken. 

Notwithstanding the unusually heavy sale of my 
books, the work on the Trail has not been self- 
supporting nor finished. We have made a begin- 
ning, leaving much yet undone, and that should be 
done now to insure final success. 

We are now in urgent need of funds to continue 
this work. 

After the lapse of five years of effort, without 
soliciting or receiving contributions (save $2.25 in 
the aggregate from three persons), I now ask the 
friends to contribute such sums as may be con- 

Friends who may wish to contribute, or secure 
copies of my books, can do so by addressing 

1124 38th Ave. N., 
Seattle, Wash. 
Or in care of 

2600 Troost Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 


S reverence for the past dies 
out in the breasts of a genera- 
tion, so likewise patriotism 
wanes. In the measure that 
the love of the history of the past dies, 
so likewise do the higher aspirations for 
the future. To keep the flower of patriot- 
ism alive, we must keep the memory of 
the past vividly in mind. 


6 7 3 


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